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IN the play of practical politics there is little scope for that pre- 
cision which is claimed for jurisprudence or political science. 
It is possible that studies in politics, however scrupulously histori- 
cal, may be thought to share the same infirmity. A preface which 
is the last page of a book to be written and the first to be read 
may be a convenient place to forecast the nature of these studies 
without seeming to anticipate the evidence. 

The development from the first Empire in America to the 
modern Commonwealth falls into three cleady marked cycles. 
The first closed in revolution for all but four or five of the Ameri^ 
can provinces. Without the concession of 'responsible govern- 
ment' at the middle of the next century, the second Empire, in 
the opinion of both Elgin and Grey, would have invited the same 
disaster. Responsible government has since been conceded to a 
score of British provinces and Dominions, with results that have 
transformed the second Empire into the Commonwealth. 

At each crisis of this trilogy certain decisive factors have been 
political. For the first, the economic and social background was 
so complex, on both sides of the Atlantic, that much of it came only 
subconsciously into the political issues of that day. At the second 
crisis, however, the lines are more clearly drawn. Responsible 
government was a political achievement, and it was won by the 
most distinctive and dynamic agency known to politics after the 
British model the agency of dominant political parties. At their 
best, these parties in Nova Scotia and the old province of Canada 
conformed to the spirit of Burke 's classic definition. They were 
bodies of men 'united for promoting by their joint endeavours the 
national interest upon some particular principle in which they are 
all agreed.' Let it be added that this applies, at the climax of the 
contest, to Johnston and the Nova Scotia Tories as well as to the 
followers of Howe, Uniacke, and Huntington. The* economic and 
social background is still as widely varied as the scattered provinces 
of the second Empire. The evidence here, in each case, must tell 


its own story. In truth there are few incentives of human conduct 
that have not contributed, at one time or another, to this historic 
issue. At the Grand Remonstrance where the contest for 'respons- 
ible government' may be said to have begun, the undercurrent 
was religion. In Prince Edward Island two centuries later it was 
part of 'the eternal land question'. In the old province of Canada 
problems of patronage 'the universal thirst for place', as Bagot 
wrote played no small part. In the North- West Territories of 
Canada fifty years later the issue turned largely upon parliamentary 
technique the appropriation of federal subsidies by the local 
Assembly. But while the motives have been infinitely varied 
the political tendencies have been remarkably constant. The 
clearing-house for all these issues has been found in the same 
expedient. It is the genius of British peoples in both hemi- 
spheres, exclaimed Robert Baldwin to Lord Durham in 1838, 'to 
be concerned in the government of themselves*. The next year, 
two Nova Scotians crossed the Atlantic 'to claim the rights of 
Englishmen for the people of this country'. 'Your Lordship's 
declaration', wrote Joseph Howe to Lord John Russell on that 
occasion, 'tells me, that on this point they will be unsuccessful ; 
but patient perseverance is a political characteristic of the stock 
from which we spring.' The issue was conceded nearly ten years 
later, for the first time in the British provinces overseas, but the 
contest had 'lasted as long as the Trojan war'. 

As this contest develops, the theme becomes a study in politics 
in a narrower sense. Responsible government has sometimes been 
attributed to the passing of mercantilism and the rise of the 
economic doctrines of laissez-faire, or to the splendid advocacy 
of Lord Durham's Report, Howe's Letters to Lord John Russell, 
and Charles Buller's Responsible Government for Colonies. These 
conclusions, half-true though they may be, are scarcely warranted, 
in the last analysis, by the evidence. With the passing of mercantil- 
ism many devious motives of the old colonial system also passed 
away, but the doctrine of commercial control from Great Britain, 
as we shall see, was as imperiously held and enforced by Earl 
Grey, the apostolic free-trader who conceded responsible govern- 
ment, as by William Knox, the mercantilist who had no small 
share in precipitating the American Revolution. Durham's 


Report, too, was not decisive. It heartened the Reformers at the 
lowest ebb of their fortunes, but its immediate effect was to harden 
the temper and confirm the doctrine of Lord John Russell ; and 
one of Sydenham's missions both in Nova Scotia and in Canada, 
as we shall see, was to thwart responsible government by dis- 
paraging political parties and binding their formidable powers, 
like the arms of Samson, by the green withs of specious coalitions. 
In Nova Scotia the immediate effect of Howe's Letters to Lord 
John Russell was an agreement by Sir Colin Campbell and Lord 
John Russell himself to bar the man whom both recognized in 
their dispatches to be the acknowledged leader of the Reformers, 
from a seat in the Executive Council. In the end responsible 
government was extorted not by spectacular advocacy but by 
disciplined political parties, after havoc had been wrought to the 
old colonial system by every alternative to responsible government 
in the politics of Nova Scotia and of Canada. There were errors 
of judgement on both sides, but the political technique of those 
eventful years will never lose its interest for students of parlia- 
mentary government upon the British model. 

The process which began with the concession of responsible 
government is now culminating, it would seem, in the Common- 
wealth in its final form. Here, too, the honours have gone to the 
statesman with his empirical methods and pragmatic temper rather 
than to the jurist or the doctrinaire. Inconsistencies and anomalies 
still abound, but they no longer daunt the exponents of politics. 
Solvitur ambulando. 1 Precision is not after all the pearl of great 
price. This may not be an unmixed blessing. Lord Morley once 
confessed himself 'amazed and a trifle horrified' in contrasting 
the 'loose free-and-easy way in which politicians form their 
judgements with the strict standards of proof, evidence, fact, 
observed by every conscientious critic or historian'. 2 The com- 
promises and accommodations of politics are apt to be very irk- 
some to the jurist. Many a great lawyer has confessed ruefully 
that politics have played havoc with his law. Too arid a legal 
temper, on the other hand, has been known to play havoc with 
politics. The statesmen of the Commonwealth now respond more 

1 See Great Britain and the Dominions , Harris Foundation Lectures, 1927. 
University of Chicago Press, p. 210. * Recollections, p. 190. 


confidently to the sure instincts of historical imagination ; and 
the future historian will understand little indeed of their problems 
who does not add to the precision of the jurist the sovereign faculty 
of historical insight. 

A note may be added with regard to the evidence. Bibliogra- 
phies of these studies would almost amount to a bibliography of 
Canadian, to say nothing of early American, history. It has been 
necessary to forgo so pretentious a plan, but no apology issmade 
for relying upon ample references and apt quotations in the attempt 
to purvey not merely conclusions but convincing evidence to the 
reader. In dealing with controversial topics like the Quebec Act y 
or the relations between Howe and Falkland in Nova Scotia, 
or the 'Metcalfe crisis* in the old province of Canada, opinions 
without proof would be valueless. To proffer them in the present 
transitional state of Canadian history would be a poor compliment 
either to the importance of the subject-matter or to the reader's 

An additional reason for ample documentation is to be found 
in the fact that the sources are as yet so largely unpublished or 
inaccessible. This is particularly true of Nova Scotia, not only 
for the period of the first Empire but for the whole critical period 
from the War of 1812 to responsible government. Much of the 
early official correspondence relating to reform in Upper and 
Lower Canada is to be found in the British Parliamentary Papers 
or in the provincial Journals ; but as the contest approached its 
climax, less and less was entrusted to official papers that were 
liable to be called up, like Samuel's ghost, in the form of parlia- 
mentary returns, by those who fancied themselves * greater 
witches than their neighbours'. By the time of Lord Sydenham's 
administration blue-books are abridged or suspended altogether, 
and the 'confidential' dispatch tends to disappear from the official 
correspondence. The truth was that official intercourse, far from 
being interrupted or curtailed, was simply following a safer 
channel. The thin routine of the G. Series was being supplemented 
by the intimacies of private and confidential intercourse like the 
Bagot Papers and the Grey-Elgin Correspondence. In truth, Elgin 
and Grey more than once resort to the harmless guile of advising 
each other in private what to put into their official dispatches. 


But even these, the most brilliant collections of private papers, 
perhaps, in Canadian history, can no longer be regarded as the 
thesaurus of evidence for responsible government. Bagot and 
Elgin may have dealt incomparably with the situation, but they 
did not create it. The springs of responsible government were in 
Nova Scotia and in Canada. In the Howe Papers, the Baldwin 
Papers, the La Fontaine Papers, and similar collections, is to be 
found'the spontaneous and confidential intercourse of the Re- 
formers themselves ; and nothing demonstrates more clearly than 
the confidential letters of Sydenham and Metcalfe and Sir Colin 
Campbell how completely sometimes the official mind was at 
fault in gauging the forces that were already at work. From the 
La Fontaine Papers (to cite a single instance) it is clear that the 
alliance between the Baldwin Reformers of Upper Canada and 
the French bloc under La Fontaine in June, 1841 one of the 
historic alliances of Canadian politics which Sydenham scathingly 
denounced at that time as the work of men 'not known for 24 
hours' to each other had been patiently and secretly built up for 
more than two years. The relations between Hincks, Baldwin, 
and La Fontaine in Canada, between La Fontaine, Girouard, 
Viger and Morin, between Howe, Huntington, and Unia9ke in 
Nova Scotia, and above all between Howe and Charles Buller in 
the final concession of responsible government, are to be traced 
only in papers of this nature. An attempt has been made in these 
studies to give them the place to which they are entitled. 

My obligations are so numerous that it will be possible to ac- 
knowledge by name only the deepest of them here. Dr. Doughty, 
Dr. Adam Shortt, and Mr. William Smith of the Public Archives 
at Ottawa will be gratefully remembered not only for a hundred 
kind offices in making the vast resources of the Archives accessible, 
but for placing so generously at the disposal of every serious 
investigator the store of their own ripe wisdom and experience. 
I have been under obligation to the Provincial Librarian of Nova 
Scotia for the use of valuable papers and Letter-Books, and to 
Mr. Smith again for copies supplied to me for further reference. 
To the use of the Grey-Elgin Correspondence which I owe to Dr. 
Doughty I must add the use of the excellent copies in the Shortt 
Collection which Professor Morton was good enough to lend me 


from the University of Saskatchewan. Acknowledgement is due 
to the Royal Society of Canada, to the Canadian Historical Review, 
and to the Association of Canadian Clubs, for the use, in several 
of these studies, of details already published under their auspices. 
For innumerable details of documentation and indexing I have 
been happily indebted to my wife. Grateful thanks also which 
I hoped to be able to express for the kindly interest of the late 
Professor Egerton and of the late Professor Davis can now be 
inscribed only to their memory. With that eager band of" scholars 
whose periodical gatherings at Ottawa have long made of the 
Public Archives there a veritable clearing-house for Canadian 
history, there have been stimulating discussions without number. 
Under the enthusiastic scholarship of these and other experienced 
investigators it is altogether a heartening thing to see the cause of 
Canadian history coming at last into its own. 

C. M. 

August, 1928. 




The Mercantile System ..... 2 

' Natural versus Official Tendencies ... 8 

Colonial Government . . . . .15 

(a) The 'Royal* Governor and Council . . 23 

(b) The Assembly 30 

Natural versus Official Tendencies . . -35 

The Loss of an Empire ..... 48 


Shirley's 'Great Plan' 60 

The First Assembly ..... 67 

The 'Alarming Crisis' 76 

'A Loyal and Devoted People' .... 84 

'The New Subjects' and the Old . . ' . 100 

The Quebec Act: Its Origin . . . .106 

The Quebec Act Passes 122 

The Quebec Act in America . . . . 134 


'Moderation and Harmony' . . . .152 

Howe and 'The Nw Model' . . . .165 
'Testing This Constitution' . . . .180 

The Coalition 194 

'The Crisis' 212 

Responsible Government ..... 226 


The Sydenham Regime 245 

Bagot's 'Great Measure' 264 

The Metcalfe Crisis 280 

Elgin's 'Great Experiment' . . . . 303 


The 'Unwritten' Constitution . . . .328 
Its Scope Indeterminate . . . . 33 1 

A Third Corollary 335 

Anomalies of the Commonwealth . . -339 

The Basis of Unity . . . . . -344 

Nation and Commonwealth . . . .351 


INDEX '-357 


THE six studies in this series, though self-contained essays in 
Canadian history, will be found to follow a very clearly marked 
theme. ' The first three relate to the first Empire and the disaster 
which overtook it at the American Revolution ; the last three to the 
truly British solution of 'the American question' in the practice of 
responsible government. The slow but steady growth in the scope 
of responsible government has culminated in the Commonwealth 
as we know it to-day. Taken together these stages mark the transi- 
tion from governance to full self-government ; and it is a curious 
coincidence that the recurring cycles in the process have come at 
almost exactly equal intervals of seventy-five years from the 
beginning of the American Revolution which destroyed the first 
Empire to the achievement of responsible government in Nova 
Scotia and in Canada which saved the second, and from the full 
concession of responsible government to the culmination of that 
process in the report of the Committee on Inter- Imperial Relations 
at the Imperial Conference of 1926. , 

The pursuit of such a theme is not without its dangers. Much of 
the unity and inevitableness of history is lost when the attempt is 
made to break it up, like a ray of white light, into its component pris- 
matic colours. For a variety of reasons, however, a comprehensive 
history for Canada may long remain a counsel of perfection. Cana- 
dian history is highly complex, and in truth it is only by focusing 
broken lights and by fusing all the cardinal colours that it is ever 
likely to be reconstructed in its entirety. Much of it has been the 
by-product of larger issues. Many issues that were Canadian in 
their origin have been distorted almost beyond recognition by 
external influences. Many, too, have complicated each other by 
appearing at the same time, thus forcing an attempt at simultaneous 
solution under conditions which invited disaster for them all. 

Of the three or four major problems in Canadian political history 
the fundamental issues of colonial government inherited from 
the first Empire, the problem of race after 1763, the project of 
combining scattered British provinces into a transcontinental 
Dominion not one, it would be safe to say, was singled out for 


settlement upon its merits. The first of these it will be the aim of 
these studies to trace in some detail. The second, though contem- 
plated by the Board of Trade upon principles of toleration and of 
magnanimity unexampled at that time, came almost immediately 
within the orbit of the American Revolution, and was launched by 
that cataclysm upon a meteoric course through Canadian history 
which it has followed ever since. Successful as the Canadian 
solution of the problem of race may now seem to the South African 
or to the Irishman, a closer view of its earlier history is less Inspir- 
ing. Never perhaps since the great Report of 1769 has the chance 
occurred to solve it upon so lofty a plane of mutual confidence, of 
toleration, and of compromise. 

The Canadian Confederation too arose from a welter of conflict- 
ing forces. Beyond a doubt it was the stronger for them in the end. 
Federal powers by comparison with provincial or state powers are 
stronger in Canada than in the United States or in Australia or in 
Brazil a fact which would seem to warrant the inference that this 
ratio stands in direct proportion to the pressure under which such 
powers are usually extorted. In so far as the Canadian Confedera- 
tion was the 'child of deadlock', the result of 'impending anarchy', 
the escape from 'perpetual ministerial crises' in the old province 
of Canada after the Union, the turmoil of that day may now be 
regarded with a measure of resignation not conspicuous sixty-five 
years ago. Thus even Confederation is scarcely a clear theme in 
Canadian history. It had its rise in a dozen tributaries with sources 
as remote as race and religion, constitutional defects of the Union, 
economic pressure, relations with the United States, territorial 
expansion, and the stirrings of a national spirit. 

The theme here attempted the transition from governance to 
self-government in British America is still more complex, for it 
is complicated by all the others. It was the first to appear and it 
has been the last to approach finality; for though the general 
principles of responsible government were established nearly 
eighty years ago, it has required more than two generations to 
reach the stage epitomized in the report of the Imperial Conference 
of 1926. Not even this complexity, however, can conceal its im- 
portance. The principles of responsible government, vindicated 
here seventy-five years ago, have since been applied to British 
dominions in every quarter of the world. In Elgin's deliberate 
opinion they saved the second Empire from the fate of the first. 
In the process, they transformed the whole nature of its unity, 


and the present Commonwealth became inevitable. In that sense 
the cause of the reformers of that day, as Howe and Baldwin 
instinctively believed, concerned vastly more than the petty local 
interests of Nova Scotia or of Canada. Howe wrote prophetically 
of the security and peace of millions in every clime. In truth 
responsible government was the watershed between the old Empire 
and the Commonwealth, and it is from the rugged outline of 
that 'great divide' that the long approach from the first Empire 
and the prospect for the future Commonwealth are alike most 
clearly discernible. 


The approach from the first Empire is not illuminated by the 
traditions of constitutional history in Canada. The conventional 
approach to the second Empire is the Battle of the Plains of Abra- 
ham. The Quebec Act, following closely upon the conquest of New 
France, was so complete a reversal of the old colonial system of the 
first Empire that the return to that system at the Constitutional Act 
seemed almost a new creation. The loyalist migrations further 
buried the origins of British colonial government beneath a new 
stratum of conventional, not to say parochial, prepossessions. A 
curtain was drawn across Canadian history at the American Revo- 
lution, and even the Quebec Act, detached from its real setting in 
British policy at the most critical period of the Revolution, was 
long regarded as though it were purely local in its origin with no 
bearing upon the larger issue. 

Traditions of Virginia, New Hampshire, and other 'royal' pro- 
vinces of the first Empire prototypes of Nova Scotia which was 
taken in turn as the model for Quebec in 1763 faded into 
memories of an incomprehensible tragedy. The phenomenal 
growth of the Canadas, particularly after the Union, and the fact 
that the name of that province was eventually given to the whole 
Dominion, further confirmed these prepossessions. New France 
thus became the background, and the problem of race became the 
staple of Canadian history. In so far as Confederation was the solu- 
tion of that problem by providing 'home rule' for Quebec, this also 
confirmed the conventional approach. The loyalist traditions of 
Upper Canada, the problem of race in Lower Canada, the process 
of Confederation these have bulked so large in the growth of the 
Dominion that it requires almost a tour deforce to trace self-govern- 
ment in Canada to its real origin not in the 'paternal despotism' of 


New France but in the traditions of the old colonial system, defec- 
tive though it was, in New England. These traditions were already 
to be found in the wake of the New England migrations into Nova 
Scotia nearly a generation before the American Revolution, and 
they continued there uninterruptedly until they were vindicated in 
responsible government. 'We seek for nothing more than British 
subjects are entitled to', wrote Howe in the fourth of his Letters to 
Lord John Russell, 'but we will be contented with nothing less/ 

The preliminary outline of The Old Colonial System (Chapter I) 
is an attempt to supply in very brief compass this indispensable 
approach to the study of self-government in Canada. After the 
volumes of Osgood and the brilliant studies of a host of British and 
American scholars, one would be bold indeed to aspire to any 
original contribution in such a field. So many interpretations of 
the first Empire and its dissolution, however, have survived the 
most exacting scholarship on both sides of the Atlantic that a less 
pretentious claim may perhaps be allowed. That part of the first 
Empire which remained British may be entitled, without false 
modesty, to a point of view which is somewhat distinctively 

Despite the admirable poise and detachment of recent scholar- 
ship in the United States, there is an assumption of inevitableness 
in the complete breakdown of mutual confidence, resulting in 
violent separation and traditions on both sides which can never, in 
all probability, be harmonized. On the other hand Professor 
Egerton, while inclined to concede the inevitableness of revolution, 
lodges a justifiable claim to consideration for a British, and not an 
American, attitude of mind'. 1 Viewing in retrospect as an accom- 
plished fact a solution of the 'American question' in the achieve- 
ment of responsible government, a Canadian may perhaps be 
permitted a third and less desperate thesis in reflecting upon the 
tendencies at work in the first Empire. Many of these appear 
strangely familiar. Unlike the United States, the provinces which 
remained British found little but tragedy in the Revolution. Un- 
like Great Britain they found the first fifty years of the second 
Empire poignantly reminiscent of the first. But better counsels 
prevailed. The achievements of the Commonwealth thus predis- 
pose the Canadian to seek the elements of promise as well as the 
elements of disruption in the old colonial system. The voices cry- 

1 'Without prejudices derived from the traditional struggles of English Whigs 
and Tories.* The American Revolution, Oxford, 1923, Preface. 


ig in the wilderness at that time the counsels of Burke, the 
)iercing and terrible note* of Chatham are but echoes in the 
aditions of the American republic. In Canadian history they 
*main the law and the prophets, and the prophets of our own 
lommonwealth have more than once replenished the sacred fire 
om the same altar. 


Nova Scotia after 1713 and particularly after the New England 
ligrations and the granting of an Assembly in 1758 was an integral 
art of the 'American Empire*. After wavering for many years 
etween the rival types of 'chartered', 'royal', and 'proprietary' 
rovinces in America, the Board of Trade finally fixed upon 'royal' 
rototypes in Virginia and New Hampshire. Thus the Nova 
cotia Assembly now the oldest in British America and the only 
.ssembly to precede and survive the Revolution has a tradition 
r hich is unique in the development of self-government in the 
*cond Empire. Shirley's 'Great Plan', moreover, for New England 
tpansion northward so successfully carried out by Halifax and 
ic Board of Trade in Nova Scotia was projected by the Board 
id by Halifax himself for the new province of Quebec at the close 
f the Seven Years' War. In all this, as we shall see, there was no 
eparture from the accepted forms of colonial government Which 
btained elsewhere in the fourteen or fifteen chief provinces at that 
me in America. Nova Scotia thus remained without intermission 
factor in 'the American question', and the secret Addresses of the 
[ova Scotia Assembly within a few weeks of Lexington are not 
ithout interest in the larger struggle. The brief study of Nova 
cotia and the Old Empire is an attempt to reconstruct this natural 
ridge, in one sense the only unbroken bridge, between the first 
mpire and the second. 

For Quebec the 'Great Plan' of Shirley and of Halifax never 
latured. At the approach of the Revolution, for reasons which we 
lall try to trace, the project was reversed by the Quebec Act, with 
violence which almost obliterated the original design of the Board 
f Trade and its context in an undivided Empire. This reversal of 
ic old colonial system for Quebec long remained one of the most 
mtroversial themes in Canadian history. 'New Subjects 9 in 
^uebec (Chapter III) is a study of the Quebec Act in its effect upon 
le policy originally contemplated for Quebec by the Board of 
'rade from 1763 to the great Report of 1769. There are many 


aspects of that Act which have been omitted in this survey. To 
Canadians of French origin these features are among the most 
important in their history since the conquest the 'charter of the 
special privileges which the French- Canadians have enjoyed ever 
since* and the presence to-day of a French civilization upon the 
banks of the St. Lawrence attests the greatest achievement of the 
French race upon this continent. But for the process here under 
review the Quebec Act not only reversed the normal tendencies 
towards self-government in America in 1774 but introduced into 
Quebec an exotic tradition of racial separatism which eventually 
embittered the whole issue of responsible government both there 
and elsewhere. The part of La Fontaine and Morin and Girouard 
and the solid French bloc after the Union went far to restore their 
race to its rightful place in the working of those representative 
institutions which the Board of Trade had solemnly avowed in 
1769 'can alone ensure their affection, and fix their attachment to 
the British Government'. But it was then too late, for racial 
dualism was soon irremediable. In the end it brought disaster to 
the Union, though it forced the happier solution of 'home rule' 
within a broader federation of the British provinces. 

In that sense the century in the Canadas from Carleton's first 
project of the Quebec Act to Confederation is surely unique in 
colonial history. Far from being the staple of colonial development 
from governance to self-government, it is marked at every stage by 
violent reactions. The original policy of Halifax and the Board of 
Trade, as we shall see, provided in Quebec as in other 'royal' pro- 
vinces in America, for an Assembly and the spontaneous growth 
of an organic constitution. The growth of the primitive Assemblies 
of Nova Scotia from 1758, of Prince Edward Island from 1773, and 
of New Brunswick from 1785, to the achievement of 'responsible 
government' in the middle of the next century was effected by the 
'conventions' of the constitution unbroken by a single Act of 
imperial legislation. Into that system the Board of Trade in 1765 
and in 1769 sought to admit the 'eighty thousand brave and loyal 
Subjects' in Quebec, by removing the disabilities of Roman 
Catholics at that time, and by a sustained effort 'to extend to his 
Majesty's new Subjects those Privileges, which exist in the prin- 
ciples of a British Constitution'. It required the highest legislative 
authority of the Empire an Act of the Imperial Parliament to 
reverse that policy in theQuebec Actofijj^. That reversal forced 
the Constitutional Act of 1791 which marked a partial return to 'the 


principles of a British Constitution'. This in turn after two rebel- 
lions forced the Act of Re-union in 1841, and when the Act of Re- 
union broke down, the British North America Act became neces- 
sary. Thus there are three successive attempts, all by Act of 
Parliament, to deal with the situation created by the Quebec Act. 
The implications of that measure are thus very far-reaching in 
Canadian history, and no apology is offered for travelling so far out 
of the record in tracing its bearing upon the problem of self- 


The loss of the first Empire was followed by an attempt to 
apply the lessons of that still incomprehensible disaster to the 

The hiatus which lies between the first three studies in this 
series and the last three, would form a theme for a volume in itself, 
for the history of the second * American Empire' from the loss of 
the thirteen colonies to the contest for responsible government has 
yet to be written. Much of it has long been known in considerable 
detail. The story of Upper and of Lower Canada forms the con- 
ventional ' history of Canada' for fifty years, but there would seem 
to be room for a series of provincial histories for the other pro- 
vinces and for that vast area comprising more than a quarter 'of the 
continent which lay for fifty years under the control of the Hudson's 
Bay Company. A synthesis of all these might then supply for the 
study of the second Empire in America what Osgood has so admir- 
ably compiled for the first. 

In the essay which bears the somewhat pretentious title of Nova 
Scotia and the Second Empire (Chapter IV) something has been 
included by way of introduction to the more detailed study of 
responsible government in that province. The background for 
Responsible Government in Canada (Chapter V) is already a familiar 
story. The former of these was the first formal concession of that 
great reform, but the second, following almost immediately upon 
it, was a much more critical experiment with even more decisive 
results for the Empire. With responsible government the menace 
which threatened the second Empire with the fate of the first 
passed away, and with the passing of the second Empire came the 
sure foundations of the Commonwealth. 

The concluding study on The Commonwealth and its Corollaries 
was published in substance by the Royal Society of Canada in 


1923.* Though it may serve to carry forward the theme towards 
the denouement which has since been formally recognized by the 
Imperial Conference of 1926, the field of Canadian history with 
which it deals, it is scarcely necessary to add, has yet to be explored 
in systematic detail. For obvious reasons it is even less known and 
less accessible for historical investigation than the course of the 
second Empire with its wealth of state papers, pamphlet literature, 
and invaluable collections of private correspondence. Yet the 
crowning glory of British statesmanship is perhaps to be found in 
the patient empirical methods, the 'day to day opportunism', by 
which the scope of responsible government has been slowly but 
steadily enlarged until it has come to embrace for the British 
Dominions all the attributes of potential nationhood. Not without 
heart-burnings and at times very plain dealing have the anomalies 
of the old Empire been discarded for the recognized 'conven- 
tions' of the Commonwealth. In that process all the Dominions 
have had their part, and the exclusively Canadian point of view 
advanced in these essays would be indefensible in a more general 
survey. But despite the conflicts of opinion and of policy, concord 
has been in the ascendant ; and it may well be said that the manner 
and spirit of this development, together with its attendant 
consequences, have been without a parallel in the history of 

In 1783, the younger Pitt, contemplating the ruins of the first 
Empire, spoke with poignant recollections of that 'memorable era 
of England's glory'. 2 Whatever poignancy attaches to the Imperial 
Conference of 1926 is of a different sort the poignancy of 'parental 
recollection' upon seeing the vigorous young nations of the family 
coming of age, as Elgin had predicted in 1850, passing from direct 
parental authority and arraying themselves for direct participation 
in those international issues which are now abroad in the world. 
In the historic words of the report on Inter- Imperial Relations, 
the self-governing Dominions are now 'autonomous Communities 
within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate one 
to another in any aspect of their domestic or external affairs, though 
united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as 
members of the British Commonwealth of Nations'. 

The nature of the 'unity' which emerges from this conception of 

1 Responsible Government and its Corollaries in the Canadian Constitution, 
Transactions^ Third Series, 1923, vol. xvii, pp. 41-56. 

* Quoted in Professor Coupland's Quebec Act t Oxford, 1925, p. i. 


the British Commonwealth is altogether profounder than the 
mechanics of governmental control. <r The very idea of subordina- 
tion of parts', exclaimed Burke in the most dynamic of his speeches, 
'excludes this idea of simple and undivided unity/ 

'Do not entertain so weak an imagination, as that your registers and 
your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and 
your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. 
Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and 
your- suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great 
contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your 
government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the 
spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy 
to them/ 

'Wild and chimericar as that conception appeared in 1775 to 
those 'mechanical politicians .... who think that nothing exists 
but what is gross and material', it finds a better vindication in the 
happier omens of our own day. The Commonwealth, says Lord 
Balfour, is 'held together far more effectually by broad loyalties 
and common feelings of interest and devotion to the great world 
ideals of peace and freedom than by anything else. That is the 
bond .... and if it is not enough nothing else will be'. 1 What this 
may mean for the nations of the Commonwealth itself, and what 
the same conception might mean if projected into international 
relations, it would be rash to speculate, but Burke's vain appeal a 
century and a half ago ought now to merit a more prophetic 
response. 'We ought to auspicate all our public proceedings in 
America, with the old warning of the Church, Sursum corda! We 
ought to elevate our minds to the greatness of that trust.' 

1 House of Lords, Dec. 8, 1926. 



THE functions of government exercised by the British Dominions 
now amount in practice to self-government and potential equality 
with Great Britain in the British Commonwealth. If traced back 
to the middle of the eighteenth century, these functions would be 
found in a bewildering variety of institutions, many of them from 
the beginning so directly under imperial control that colonists had 
scarcely contemplated the possibility of any other. 

A Canadian protective tariff at the present time would be an- 
nounced by a Canadian Minister of Finance at Ottawa. It would 
be collected by officials appointed by the Minister of Customs. It 
would be enforced by Canadian courts under the administration 
of the Canadian Department of Justice. The revenues thus accru- 
ing would find their way automatically into the consolidated fund 
of the Dominion. In 1765 not one of these functions was con- 
trolled by colonial legislation or administered by colonial officials 
acting in the interests of the colonies. In this field, therefore, 
governance was the rule, confirmed, as Burke pointed out upon the 
eve of the American Revolution, 'even more by usage than by law'. 
On the other hand there had scarcely been a time when British 
settlers in America had failed to feel and to exercise certain in- 
stinctive aptitudes which colonial patriots could call 'the in- 
alienable rights of British subjects'. An Assembly of freeholders 
came to be regarded as indispensable in a British province. By the 
middle of the eighteenth century the law officers of the Crown and 
the Lords of Trade had laid down the principle that no government 
4 can be properly carried on without such an Assembly'. 1 In a 
resolution which Dickinson in his Farmers' Letters called 'the 
American Declaration of Rights', the Stamp Act Congress at 
New York, October 19, 1765, declared that 'His Majesty's liege 
subjects in the Colonies are intitled to all the inherent rights and 
liberties of his natural-born subjects'within the Kingdonurf Great 

1 William Murray and Sir Richard Lloyd, Apr. 29, 1755; Lords of Trade to 
Gov. of N.S., May 7, 1755. Pub. Arch. Can., Nova Scotia, A. Series, vol. Ivii. 
34" B 


Britain*. 1 In 1758 the humblest Assembly in North America at 
its first session could arraign a citizen of Halifax at the bar of the 
House to answer for aspersions upon the dignity of the Assembly. 
Between these two poles governance through the mercantile 
system on the one hand, and self-government through the local 
Assembly on the other lay vast areas of government over which 
the control was almost constantly shifting. The adjustments that 
took place were normally as peaceful and almost as imperceptible 
as the slow changes of nature. At times they were the result of 
deliberation. Occasionally there was an angry contest which en- 
larged rather than closed the issue, and left a scar behind. But 
though no serious attempt was made to fix the boundaries, certain 
very marked tendencies were discernible. The abounding com- 
merce of North America was everywhere obvious; but without 
questioning the general principles of mercantilism, close observers 
had already begun to suspect that much of this prosperity arose 
not only through the mercantile system but in spite of it. On the 
other hand a series of ineffectual attempts to circumscribe the 
scope and progress of self-government had revived in the new 
world many of the issues of the revolt against the Stuarts and the 
Revolution Settlement in the old. Without drawing upon the cen- 
tury and a half of experience and more than a score of experiments 
in self-government since the American Revolution, it is not difficult 
to trace in the American colonies of the eighteenth century certain 
tendencies that are now so familiar as to be commonplaces of 
British government in every quarter of the world. So prevalent 
had these become by the middle of the century, despite the widest 
diversities of environment in America, that they seemed a part, as 
Burke said, of 'the natural operation of things which left to them- 
selves generally fall into their proper order'. 



Neither in its origin nor perhaps in practice did the mercantile 
system of the eighteenth century deserve the obloquy which over- 
took it in the wake of the American Revolution. By comparison 
with Spanish greed for gold and silver during the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries, the ideals of British mercantilism were plaus- 
ible and enlightened. Nearly half the years of the eighteenth cen- 

1 See however Knox, Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies 
Reviewed, London, 1769, p. 26, and Appendix, p. cii, &c. 


tury before 1765 were years of war when national aggrandizement 
was naturally associated with conquest. Trade was to be sought 
not through the prosperity of potential enemies but in the ex- 
pansion of a self-sufficing Empire. The mercantile system was 
thus the product of its age and can scarcely be appraised apart 
from the conditions which called it into being. 

Many features of the system, moreover, subserved the best in- 
terests of the nation. One of its cardinal principles was that British 
commerce must be carried on in British ships, commanded by 
British masters, and manned by predominantly British crews. The 
great Navigation Act of 1651 was directed against the Dutch carry- 
ing-trade, and beyond a doubt was instrumental in establishing 
that maritime supremacy which, until the brief but disastrous inter- 
mission at the most critical period of the American Revolution, was 
never broken. In an age of sailing-ships when a sailor's skill was 
the result of a lifelong aptitude for the sea, and when naval stores 
were largely interchangeable between the navy and the mercantile 
marine, the one was almost the counterpart of the other. The oft- 
quoted dictum of Adam Smith may be taken to justify this phase 
at least of the mercantile system : * defence is more important than 
opulence'. In fact defence, in this instance, produced opulence. 
The avowed object of the Navigation Act of the seventeenth cen- 
tury was an accomplished fact by the middle of the eighteenth : 'the 
increase of shipping and the encouragement of the navigation of 
this nation'. Policy in this respect was merely a reinforcement of 
natural tendencies. The growth of colonial shipping in particular 
filled the traveller in America with astonishment. Long after the 
American Revolution this feature of the system was held to be 
justified by results. 'I would ask the most interested colonist', 
wrote one of the best-informed of British officials, 'to shew upon 
what other principle he founds his expectation of security in his 
possessions and protection in his trade.' I 

Other features of the system, however, were highly artificial, and 
invited the fate of all systems which depend for success upon the 
defiance of nature. Colonial governors were under the most posi- 
tive instructions to prohibit manufactures which might compete 
with the mother country : 'it is Our express Will and Pleasure', read 
the Instructions to Governor Murray in Quebec, 'that you do not, 
upon any Pretence whatever, upon pain of Our highest Displeasure, 
give your Assent to any Law or Laws for setting up any Manufac- 

1 William Knox in Extra Official State Papers, 1789, ii. 54. 


tures and carrying on any Trades, which are hurtful and prejudicial 

to this Kingdom/ l 

For the 'tropical' as distinct from the 'continental' plantations 
perhaps the worst feature of this was the stark avowal of colonial 
subordination to British interests. Between sugar-islands in the 
West Indies and industrial Britain competition was negligible. For 
primitive 'continental' colonies too the regulations frequently con- 
formed to natural conditions, and the British Government some- 
times relied upon constructive enterprise rather than prohibitions. 
Thus Bridger, Surveyor of Woods, strove to convince the fron- 
tiersman that tar or potash was more profitable than homespun : 
he could 'earn enough at it to buy two coats in the same time he 
spent in the actual manufacture of one'. But few communities in 
the north temperate zone could develop far without aspiring to 
primitive industries of their own. The manufacture of beaver hats 
flourished in New York and Pennsylvania, while 'the country 
people or planters are entered so far into making their own woolens 
that not one in forty but wears his own carding, spinning, &c.'. 2 
The prohibition of American manufactures, though continued on 
paper, seems to have been ignored in practice. Had such measures 
as the Hat Act and the Iron Act been vigorously enforced, or, 
indeed, had there been in the nature of things any possibility of 
enforcing them, this feature of the mercantile system might have 
ended in disaster. The fact that so little was done to enforce them 
is perhaps the best proof that the theory was thoroughly untenable, 
and that no legislation in defiance of nature could crib and confine 
the illimitable resources of the new world. 


Two other features of the mercantile system were closely related, 
and it is difficult to appraise them. The general purpose of scores 
of Acts was to give the mother country a virtual monopoly both of 
colonial exports, chiefly raw materials, for her own and foreign 
markets, and of colonial markets for her own and foreign exports. 
To both of these categories, however, there were many exceptions, 
and the element of monopoly was not devised exclusively in the 
interests of the mother couhtry. 

1 ' And that You do use your utmost Endeavours to discourage, discounten- 
ance and restrain any Attempts which may be made to set up such Manufac- 
tures, or establish any such Trades.' Shortt and Doughty, Documents relating 
to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1759-1791, i. 200. 

Dickerson, American Colonial Government, 1696-1765, p. 307. 


The colonial products which were to be exported to Great 
Britain or to foreign countries through British warehouses were 
those only which were * enumerated* from time to time by the 
various Acts of trade; and two observations are in order with 
regard to them. In the first place many of the most valuable 
products of the colonies were not 'enumerated'; thus the fisheries 
which the New England colonies developed with phenomenal skill 
and resourcefulness were unfettered by restrictions of trade except 
that a 'clipper which carried the season's catch of cod-fish to the 
European market was supposed to return either in ballast or with 
foreign goods by way of a British port. Similarly European salt, an 
indispensable commodity for the fisheries, was supposed to reach 
the fishing-grounds only by the same circuitous route. The re- 
sourceful New England skipper was scarcely to be bound by regu- 
lations like these. In the second place there were many bounties 
even upon 'enumerated' colonial products, and many heavy duties 
upon the competitive foreign products in the British market. Thus 
Virginian tobacco had the advantage of a tax upon Spanish tobacco 
in Great Britain, while the cultivation of tobacco was prohibited 
in any form in Great Britain and Ireland a regulation which in 
Beer's opinion 'entailed far greater sacrifice than did British restric- 
tions on Colonial manufacturing'. 1 But while there were constant 
protests from British and Irish farmers against the colonial mono- 
poly of the British market, the Virginian planters had a right 
to protest that more than three-quarters of their tobacco found 
its way to foreign markets. For this lucrative trade Great Britain 
was the staple, and, despite the rebate of the British duty to the 
colonial exporter, the British merchant reaped the middleman's 

With regard to one class of colonial exports masts and naval 
stores 'defence' rather than 'opulence' was still the order of the 
day, and the long controversies over bounties and preferences and 
reservations of pine timber for the navy ought not perhaps to be 
separated from that division of the system. Had the bounties on 
hemp, pitch, tar, masts, and other naval stores in the colonies, even 
when reinforced by the duties on Baltic timber, availed to meet the 
needs of the navy and of ship-builders in Great Britain, the friction 
might have been negligible. But measures deemed necessary in the 
interests of naval security were frequently administered in a way 
which left an ugly impression of coercion rather than encourage- 

1 British Colonial Policy, .2754-7765, p. 196. 


ment. Comfortable fortunes were made in colonial ship-yards 
upon masts and spars for the British market, but the Surveyor of 
Woods was constantly embroiled with the pioneer settler, and the 
'enumeration* of lumber cut off the colonial exporter from direct 
contact with the European market, perhaps the most lucrative 
field in the whole range of colonial enterprise. 

There were those like Martin Bladen who claimed boldly that 
colonies ought thus to subserve 'the advantage of the mother state' 
as the price of colonial 'privileges and protection': 'if this use 
cannot be made of them it will be much better for the state to be 
without them.' I At the close of the American Revolution it was 
still roundly asserted by an Under- Secretary of State as 'the prin- 
ciple I meant to found the regulations upon . . . that it was better 
to have no colonies at all, than not to have them subservient to the 
maritime strength and commercial interests of Great Britain 1 . 2 But 
the benefits of control over colonial products were believed to be 
reciprocal. 'It became hard to say', writes Professor Egerton, 'what 
was the final result, on a balancing of accounts.' 3 Almost the last 
defence of the mercantile system in the nineteenth century was the 
protest from Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick against 
the repeal of British duties on Baltic timber. Perhaps the chief 
defects of this branch of the system would have appeared under 
any regulations which interfered with the natural course of trade. 
Those who profited prospered in silence or agitated for still greater 
profits. Those who were hit could be relied upon to make them- 
selves heard. Perhaps the most dangerous feature was that in the 
midst of grave controversies so artificial a system lent itself, as we 
shall see, to manipulation for ulterior purposes. 


The remaining features of the system were also highly artificial, 
and still more fatally invited exploitation. The attempt to mono- 
polize the colonial market and to rtiake Great Britain the staple 
even for foreign exports invited systematic evasion by every rank 

1 Colonial Records of North Carolina, ii. 626-7, quoted by Professor Egerton 
in The American Revolution, p. 5. 

* 'This principle I make rio secret of, for I have ever avowed it, even in 
America, and as an American planter, when I was deeply interested in the 
prosperity and security of that country, and its continuing to be a member of 
the British Empire.* William Knox, Extra Official State Papers, ii. 54. 

These papers were addressed to the 'Members of the Two Houses of Parlia- 
ment Associated for the Preservation of the Constitution and Promoting the 
Prosperity of the British Empire '. 3 American Revolution, p. 59. 


of society in North America from the skipper of the New England 
schooner to the relatives of the judge upon the bench. Unlike the 
ban upon manufacturing in the colonies, the regulation of colonial 
imports was supposed in theory to be thoroughly practicable. The 
laws of trade were British, and they were administered by an 
organization which was imperial in every detail. The com- 
missioners of customs were British officials over whose appoint- 
ment and conduct even the Board of Trade exercised no control. 
Until 1767 these commissioners were resident in Great Britain, and 
commissioners then came to America not to conciliate American 
opinion but to enforce the regulations at close quarters. The Vice- 
Admiralty Courts for the enforcement of trade and maritime regu- 
lations sat without juries, and were presided over by British judges 
who, like the customs officials, were supposed to be independent 
of local influence as they were of local control. Behind the whole 
moved the pervasive power of the Royal Navy, which on occasion 
could exert a direct and invincible domination. On paper the 
system seemed remarkably complete and responsive to central 

In practice the system, like Charon 's boat beneath the weight of 
Aeneas, leaked at every joint. Smuggling went on until the atmo- 
sphere reeked with it. The customs officials were venal until it was 
said that 'a very small office in the customs in America has raised 
a man a fortune sooner than a Government 1 . 1 Many of the officials 
lived in Great Britain and sent deputies whose fortunes were ob- 
served to bear an inverse ratio to their salaries. It was stated that 
'without bribery and corruption they must starve';- but every 
vacancy in the customs was thronged with candidates for starva- 
tion. Even in time of war fortunes were made by trading with the 
enemy and particularly by the indirect trade with the French 
through the Spanish island of Monte Cristi. The evidence cited 
by Beer leaves an impression of utter lawlessness wherever evasion 
was possible. Chatham, with righteous indignation, condemned 
'this dangerous and ignominious trade', and attributed to it the 
protraction of 'this long and expensive War'. Fifteen years later, 
on the eve of the American Revolution, Chatham could still speak 
of 'little paltry peddling fellows, vendors of twopenny wares, and 

1 James Otis, Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, Boston, 1764, 
p. 58; quoted by Beer, British Colonial Policy, 1754-1765, p. 210. 

Otis had been prosecuting-attorney in Vice-Admiralty Court until 1761. 
1 Ibid. Hutchinson to Richard Jackson, Sept. 17, 1763. 


falsehoods, who, under the idea of trade, sell everything in their 

power Honour, Trust, and Conscience'. 1 

If families like the Livingstons and De Peysters of New York 
could dabble in this filthy lucre in time of war, the tendencies in 
time of peace must have been irresistible. The prevalence of 
smuggling could scarcely have escaped the most casual observer. 
The Molasses Act of 1733 imposing duties upon foreign molasses, 
sugar, and rum in the American colonies yielded less thanks, 700 
during the twenty-one years preceding the outbreak of the Seven 
Years' War an average of 259 a year ; * yet the molasses annually 
brought into Rhode Island alone amounted to 14,000 hogsheads 
of which scarcely 2,500 came from the British sugar-islands. Of 
the 1,500,000 Ib. of tea consumed annually in the North American 
colonies, scarcely one-tenth was imported directly from Great 
Britain. The irregularities involved in these practices included 
everything from mere evasion to fraudulent declarations and 
downright perjury. At a time when the total export trade of Great 
Britain to the North American colonies amounted to less than 
2,000,000 awriter in London estimated the smuggling at 700 ,000 
a year. 3 In a secret Address to the House of Commons in 1775 the 
Nova Scotia Assembly deplored 'that corruption of manners and 
that contempt of the crime of perjury which is now become so 
open and flagrant'. 4 



The net results of the mercantile system at the close of the Seven 
Years' War would be hard to estimate, but it seems obvious that a 
system which lent itself to this monstrous perversion could scarcely 
have commanded the moral respect without which law is worse 
than useless. Professor Egerton has. finely said that 'perhaps in the 
long run the worst result of the system was the lowering of the 
public conscience, which is the inevitable outcome of continuous 
successful evasion of the law'. 5 It is but a step from the evasion of 

1 Speech of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords, Jan. 20, 

1775, P- Qi- 

a Dickerson, American Colonial Government, 1696-1765, p. 1 18 ; Beer, op. cit., 
p. 240. 3 Beer, op. cit. t p. 246. 

4 Nova Scotia, A. Series, 94. n. (Transcripts of C.O. 217 in the Public 
Record Office.) Pub. Arch. Can. 

5 Origin and Growth of the English Colonies, p. 119. 


a bad law to contempt for all law. To this polluted source have been 
traced certain evil tendencies which tainted American public life 
far into the nineteenth century. A system which induced venality 
and evasion on such a scale must have had a taint of original sin 
in its own nature. The most flagrant instances of fraud and perjury, 
indefensible under any circumstances, were winked at in high 
places or deplored as inevitable corollaries of the system. The 
Governor of Massachusetts wrote that 'if conniving at foreign 
sugar and molasses, and Portugal wines and fruit, is to be reckoned 
Corruption, there was never, I believe, an uncorrupt Custom 
House Officer in America until within twelve months'. 1 Yet the 
Molasses Act and other intolerable regulations remained upon the 
statute-books until Grenville found them there and a fatal train of 
circumstances led to an attempt for the first time to enforce them. 

The normal and what may be called the natural tendencies of the 
system, therefore, may be inferred from the evasions that went on 
under it. For economic as well as for bodily health the subversion 
of nature is a costly process ; and though not yet reduced to a body 
of economic doctrine many saving principles were acted upon in 
detail with determined conviction. The Boston skipper, part- 
owner of his ship and 'working on shares' with his crew, was 
accustomed to spend the season on 'the banks' and to take his 
catch of dried and salted cod to Portugal in the autumn. He was 
not likely to come back in ballast if he could fill the hold with 
'Portugal wines and fruit', or better still, with salt for the next 
season's fishing. The New York merchant who bought so 
lavishly of British goods was frequently able to buy British goods 
only because he had first prospered, sometimes in devious ways, 
by buying and selling foreign and particularly West Indian goods. 
The British manufacturer was not deeply concerned how the 
customer who bought British woollens in Philadelphia got the 
dollars to pay for them, or how Spanish or Dutch bullion came to 
gravitate so mysteriously to Britain by way of the North American 
colonies. It was scarcely by chance that the dollar passed into the 
currency of the United States. 

This abounding commerce, moreover, was as potent in the 
colonial Assembly as it was in the British House of Commons. For 
the governor of a colony the merchant was frequently a thorn in the 
flesh: he was 'not so nearly concerned in its Welfare', Governor 
Lawrence protested, as the 'landed people' whose enormous hold- 

1 Beer, op. cit. t p. 239. 

341* C 


ings of unimproved wilderness cluttered colonial development for 
fifty years. 1 But it could scarcely be gainsaid that the prosperity 
of the pre-revolutionary Empire was largely commercial. In re- 
sourcefulness, in enterprise, in that practical contact with affairs 
as distinct from theories which distinguished the mercantile from 
the official mind; above all, in that species of expediency which 
Sir Charles Lucas calls 'day to day opportunism', the merchant ad- 
venturer deserved better of his critics than he sometimes received. 
Chatham, with all his contempt for the 'little paltry , peddling 
fellows' who sold honour, trust, and conscience, had a tribute for 
the men who solved with unprecedented skill the problems of the 
commissariat. Burke, with his fierce denunciation of 'the rotten 
contract-hunting part of the mercantile interest* snuffing 'the 
cadaverous hautgout of lucrative war', reserves one of his highest 
tributes to the American colonies for their commercial enterprise : 
'Nothing in the history of mankind is like their progress. For my 
part, I never cast an eye on their flourishing commerce and their 
cultivated and commodious life too, but they seem to me rather 
ancient nations grown to perfection through a long series of fortu- 
nate events, and a train of successful industry, accumulating wealth 
in many centuries, than the colonies of yesterday.' 2 

Much of the systematic evasion of the laws of trade, therefore, 
may perhaps be interpreted as the trend of practical commerce 
towards a sounder economic policy. Beer has traced much of the 
prosperity of the North American colonies not to the flaunted 
virtues but to the ineffectiveness of the system. The trade which 
the Englishman balanced under exports and imports was, in fact, 
triangular or multilateral. Thus while the export trade to the 
'tropical' West Indies the ideal type of colony from the mercantil- 
ist's point of view increased by 326,000 during the period from 
1747 to 1767, that of the 'continental' colonies increased by 
1,232,000, virtually trebling in twenty years and nearly doubling 
the West Indian trade in total volume. The truth seems to have 
been that the 'continental' colonies got their first impulse to 
wealth by domestic and foreign trade, legitimate or otherwise. 
With these acquired riches they could then afford to buy British 
manufactures and especially woollens in rapidly increasing volume. 

1 Governor Lawrence to the Lords of Trade, Dec. 8, 1755, Nova Scotia, 
A. Series, 58. 166. In Prince Edward Island the grants of 1769 were not finally 
disposed of until the close of the nineteenth century. 

2 Burke to Rockingham, Aug. 23, 1775; Speech on American Taxation , 


In 1764 Governor Golden of New York claimed it was 'evident 
to a demonstration that the more Trade the Colonies in North 
America have with Foreign Colonies, the more they consume of 
the British Manufactures'. 1 The opinion of William Knox was 
equally positive, and few could have been better informed. Knox 
was the confidant in turn of Grenville, of Hillsborough, of Ger- 
main, and of North himself. He had spent six years in the North 
American colonies before their independence, and he stated in 
1789 th'at there had been 'a free though illicit trade with all the 
world there*. Elsewhere in the Extra Official State Papers Knox 
states his conviction that 'had America continued a part of the 
British empire for half a century longer, under the same mode of 
Government as subsisted in the several provinces before the war, 
the navigation, manufactures, and a great part of the people of 
Great Britain and Ireland, would probably have transported them- 
selves thither'.* 


It is clear, therefore, that to the colonist at least the practice was 
less objectionable than the theory, so long as normal tendencies 
were permitted to develop without exploitation for ulterior pur- 
poses ; and indeed the hostility to the system traditionally associ- 
ated with the American Revolution is found to be almost altogether 
apocryphal. Daniel Dulany, who was among the first to protest 
against the right of the Commons of Great Britain by * giving arid 
granting' the stamp tax 'to be thus munificent at the Expense of 
the Commons of America', conceded that 'the Authority of the 
Mother Country to regulate the Trade of the Colonies' was 'un- 
questionable. ... A Right to regulate their Trade without their 
Consent is admitted'. 3 Gervase Parker Bushe, who in 1769 dared 
to suggest that 'if the cause of the Americans be just, their firmness 
is virtue', allowed that 'they must be subject to British navigation 
laws, and trade-regulations', and that 'the sea, the common benefit 
of mankind, may be denied them'. 4 Robinson Matthews in 1774, 
after exhausting satire and argument against arbitrary taxation for 
revenue in America, asserted that 'our colonies are content that we 

1 Quoted by Beer, op. cit. y p. 292. N.Y. Col. Documents, vii. 612. 
* Extra Official State Papers, ii. 23, 12. 

3 Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, 
London (reprinted), 1766, p. 49. 

4 The Case of Great Britain and America, Addressed to the King and Both 
Houses of Parliament, London, 1769, pp. 19, 29. 


should at our pleasure regulate their trade provided that what we 
do is bona fide, really, truly and sincerely for that purpose': this 
fact 'has been corroborated by their perpetual and constant consent 
and acquiescence'. 1 

John Adams, whose fierce invective in 1774 questioned the whole 
sovereign authority of Parliament, adds the proviso * excepting to 
regulate their trade'. 'There is no need of any other Power than 
that of regulating Trade ; and this the Colonies ever have been, and 
will be, ready and willing to concede to her.' 2 James Otis, who was 
referred to in 1769 as 'the first leader in the American disputes', 
had conceded in 1764 that 'the Act of Navigation is a good Act, 
so are all that exclude foreign manufactures from the plantations, 
and every honest man will subscribe to them'. 3 Burke, who was 
agent for New York, admitted in his Speech on American Taxation 
that commercial restraint was 

'as vigorous servitude as men can be subject to. But America bore it 
from the fundamental Act of Navigation till 1764. Why? Because 
men do bear the inevitable constitution of their original nature with 
all its infirmities. The Act of Navigation attended the colonies from 
their infancy, grew with their growth, and strengthened with their 
strength. They were confirmed in obedience to it even more by usage 
than by law/ 

The fourth article in the Declaration of the first Continental 
Congress, 1774, avowed this acquiescence in the clearest language : 
'from the necessity of the case, and a regard to the mutual interest 
of both countries, we cheerfully consent to the operation of such 
Acts of the British Parliament, as are bona fide restrained to the 
regulation of our external commerce, for the purpose of securing 

1 'Who are ... to determine whether any money is wanted for such purposes ; 
they who pay it or they who take it ? They who take it. Who are to determine 
the quantity wanted ? They who take it. Who are to determine how often it is 
wanted ? They who take it. ... Suppose the Americans should be of opinion or 
declare that the money so raised is not for their advantage but the contrary; 
is that a bar to raising ? No. . . . Suppose them to signify, that the money alledged 
to be used in their military defence is employed in paying troops to enslave 
them, or which they had rather be without. . . . Wherein then does this differ 
from will and pleasure in the most absolute sense?' Considerations on the 
Measures carrying on with Respect to the British Colonies in North America, 
London, 1774, pp. 7, 8, 10. 

2 History of the Dispute with America from its Origin in 1754. Written in the 
Year 1774. London, 1774, pp. 23, 33. 

3 A Vindication of the British Colonies, By James Otis, Esq. of Boston, re- 
printed 1769, Advertisement. Rights of the British Colonists Asserted and 
Proved, Boston, New-England (1764). Reprinted, London, 1766. 


the commercial advantages of the whole empire to the mother 
country, and the commercial benefits of its respective members/ I 
What with British capital, British naval defence, and free inter- 
course within the Empire, the commercial advantages of the old 
colonial system may well have exceeded the commercial hazards 
of political independence. Beer, 'the best qualified of men to speak 
on the subject of the Mercantile System', has the remarkable 
statement that in this respect 'the system tended in the direction 
of greater imperial cohesion, and ran counter to the strongly 
marked tendency towards political disintegration*. 2 


It would be idle, perhaps, to speculate upon the result had other 
events permitted a peaceful evolution. The glories of the Seven 
Years* War brought disaster in their train a staggering debt, dis- 
illusionment and impatience at home, the demand for adequate 
taxation of the colonies, and a temptation to exploit this specious 
imperial system as a short cut to solvency. Is it conceivable that if 
divested of more fundamental issues the transition from mono- 
poly to reciprocity under Huskisson and to free trade under Peel 
might have taken place in the thirteen colonies as quietly as in 
those which eventually remained British ? 

Whatever be the answer to that question there was one attribute 
of the system to the official mind perhaps its most attractive 
feature which like the heel of Achilles invited a mortal arrow. 
While the mercantile interests, with feet firmly planted upon the 
bed-rock of economic facts, could be relied upon sooner or later to 
recognize stubborn realities, the official method was not always so 
empirical; and official as distinct from natural tendencies were 
never perhaps more sorely tried than at the close of the Seven 
Years' War. Whatever the varying fortunes of the conflict with 
the provincial Assemblies, here was one phase of the colonial 
system which was admittedly under imperial control. The laws of 
trade, the commissioners of customs in London, the customs 
officials at the American ports, the Vice- Admiralty Courts, ad- 
miralty law without juries and without recourse to local legislation, 
the Royal Navy with traditions which were the pride and glory of 

1 S. E. Morison, Sources and Documents illustrating the American Revolution, 
Clarendon Press, 1923, p. 120. 

a Egerton, The American Revolution, p. 50. British Colonial Policy, 1754- 
7765, p. 210. See the excellent summary in Schlesinger, The Colonial 
Merchants and the American Revolution, New York, 1918, pp. 591-3. 


every Briton all these were imperial. For the official type of mind 
with its hard virtues and its impatience of anomalies this glittering 
array of organization must have exercised a fascination which it 
was scarcely in human nature to resist. 

By all the orthodox canons of officialdom the Right Honourable 
George Grenville must have been one of the most virtuous and 
admirable of men. William Knox, who defended the policy, and, 
after Grenville's death, 'the memory of that great and excellent 
man', claims to have been admitted to a closer intimacy with him 
than 'that great Minister's nearest relations'. 1 Neither to his 
friends nor to himself, wrote Knox in 1789, 'would he warp the 
public interest or service in the smallest degree; rigid in his 
opinions of public justice and integrity, and firm to inflexibility 
in the construction of his mind, he reprobated every suggestion of 
the political expediency of overlooking frauds or evasions in the 
payment or collection of the revenue, or of waste and extravagance 
in its expenditure'. 2 

* With a masculine understanding and a stout and resolute heart (says 
Burke in the memorable lines on American Taxation), he had an 
application undissipated and unwearied. . . . But it may be truly said 
that men too much conversant in office are rarely minds of remarkable 
enlargement. . . . Mr. Grenville thought better of the wisdom and 
power of human legislation than in truth it deserves. He conceived, 
and many conceived along with him, that the flourishing trade of this 
country was greatly owing to law and institution, and not quite so 
much to liberty; for but too many are apt to believe regulation to be 
commerce and taxes to be revenue/ 

The laws against illicit trade were already upon the statute-books. 
Why not enforce them ? In 1764 it was determined to enforce the 
Molasses Act at 3^. per gallon. The Sugar Act of the same year 
under the guise of commercial regulation avowed the ominous 
principle that it was 'just and necessary that a revenue be raised in 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 31-2. 

3 Id. t p. 34. Cf. Grenville to Knox, Aug. 28, 1768: 'I may appeal to you as 
a private man, and as a Member of Parliament, to my public declarations, that 
my opinions upon this subject have ever been uniformly the same.' Id., Appen- 
dix, No. IV, p. 19. Cf. also Grenville's diary for July 10, 1765, at the time of 
his resignation : 'he besought His Majesty, as he valued his own safety, not to 
suffer any one to advise him to separate or draw the line between his British 
and American dominions . . . that if any man ventured to defeat the regulations 
laid down for the Colonies, by a slackness in the execution, he should look upon 
him as a criminal and the betrayer of his country.' Grenville Correspondence, 
1853, iii. 215-16. 


your Majesty's said dominions in America for defraying the ex- 
penses of defending, protecting, and securing the same'. It was 
now resolved to establish a Vice- Admiralty Court for the whole 
of British America and to enforce confiscations for illicit trade. As 
First Lord of the Admiralty Grenville had already urged vigorous 
action against clandestine foreign trade. Closer observers were 
aware that from these hidden springs flowed much of the pros- 
perity which enriched British trade with the colonies and 'filled 
all its 'proper channels to the brim'. 'Any of these innumerable 
regulations, perhaps', says Burke, 'would not have alarmed alone; 
some might be thought reasonable ; the multitude struck them with 
terror.' When the thin disguise of commercial regulation was 
dropped and a revenue boldly sought by the ill-fated Stamp Act 
in 1765, it was to the Vice- Admiralty Courts that Grenville turned 
with his 'stout and resolute heart' to secure its enforcement. It 
was natural that opposition should vent itself against the immedi- 
ate instruments of this insensate policy ; and this may account for 
much of the apocryphal hostility to the mercantile system. But 
there was a deeper issue than this. Apart altogether from the 
instruments used to enforce the policy, what was the motive for 
the policy itself? Was it justifiable in 1765 ? What was its ultimate 
purpose ? These were questions which could not be answered from 
the standpoint of eighteenth-century mercantilism, for they con- 
cerned those 'inalienable rights of British subjects' which were to 
be sought and perhaps understood only at the other pole of the old 
colonial system the stubborn faith which British peoples in every 
quarter of the world have always retained in the efficacy of self- 



The Seven Years' War closed with seventeen or eighteen British 
provinces in North America, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico 
to the Arctic Ocean. There were those who rejoiced with Benjamin 
Franklin that 'the foundations of the future grandeur and stability 
of the British empire' were now laid, and that these were 'broad 
and strong enough to support the greatest political structure that 
human wisdom ever yet erected'. 1 On the other hand there were 
officials like Governor Murray in Quebec, or William Knox,Under- 

1 Works , cd. Bigelow, i. 399. 


Secretary for the Southern Department, who contemplated 'this 
American Empire' from another point of view, for 'empire' in the 
sense of organized dominion was nowhere in evidence. The mer- 
cantile system, it is true, was imperial in every detail, and the laws 
of trade and navigation were placed in the hands of every governor 
without differentiation. But at the sea-coast this conception of 
'empire' virtually came to an end, and the forms of local govern- 
ment in the British provinces were truly bewildering in their 
variety. When Knox went to America in 1756, 'it was with no 
small degree of astonishment' that he 'perceived a total want of 
plan or system in the British Government'. 'Something more than 
the powers of paper and parchment', he afterwards observed in 
those invaluable revelations, the Extra Official State Papers, would 
have been necessary 'to render them useful, and retain them in 
subordination to Great Britain'. 1 

No 'colonial system' could have been more varied than the con- 
ditions under which these provinces and 'plantations' had been 
founded, or the courses which they had run in their spontaneous 
and sturdy development. The new England colonies of Massa- 
chusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut had been havens for 
Puritan refugees during the royalist ascendancy under the Stuarts ; 
Virginia proved a haven for royalist refugees under the Common- 
wealth. Pennsylvania was a refuge for Quakers, German Mennon- 
ites, and Tunkers; Maryland at first for Roman Catholics. In 
New York the Dutch of New Amsterdam and the English of the 
Restoration had coalesced into a province whose commercial 
future was already assured. In Nova Scotia French and British 
had lived together until 'the expulsion' scattered the Acadian exiles 
along the Atlantic seaboard from New Hampshire to Georgia. The 
basic population of Florida was Spanish; of Quebec and Grenada, 
French; of Rupert's Land, native Indian. The Carolinas marked 
the colonizing enterprise of the Stuarts after the Restoration; 
Georgia that of the Georges after the 'Revolution Settlement. 

The forms of government were scarcely less varied. Even the 
'royal' provinces were far from uniform; but the 'proprietary' and 
'chartered' provinces exhibited in their local institutions almost 
every combination of relationship between governor, council, and 
Assembly it was possible to find in North America. The Hudson's 
Bay Charter of 1670 still in existence as the act of incorporation 
of the Hudson's Bay Company conferred upon British stock- 

1 Extra Official State Papers, 1789, ii. n, 20. 


holders an iron-bound monopoly of trade and proprietary rights. 
It was not until the nineteenth century that a resident 'governor' 
was appointed in Rupert's Land and a 'Council of Assiniboia' was 
convened to discharge the most primitive functions of government. 
The charter of Pennsylvania on the other hand provided for an 
elective Assembly and a governor nominated by the proprietors, 
but no functions of legislation were accorded to the council. A 
popular 'single chamber' legislature and an executive controlled by 
the proprietary interests were thus brought into direct juxta- 
position, with disastrous results to the peace and good name of the 
province. 1 More devastating still was the chronic feud between 
the Assembly and the proprietors of Maryland. For a brief period 
after 1691 the proprietary governor was replaced by a royal ap- 
pointee, leaving, however, the other proprietary rights under the 
charter practically intact. After the restoration of the proprietary 
regime in 1715 the old feud was renewed under the old auspices, 
and was made memorable by the appearance of Daniel Dulany as 
the champion of The Right of the Inhabitants of Maryland. 'The 
proprietorships', says Osgood, 'were the weakest and on the whole 
the least satisfactory of the three forms of colonial government'. 2 
They were also the least responsive. The sordid conflict between 
proprietor and pioneer, between private and public interests, could 
scarcely be expected to breed public spirit or devotion to a national 
cause. It is significant that among all the British provinces during 
the Seven Years' War, Pennsylvania and Maryland distinguished 
themselves by their stolid and perhaps disingenuous apathy.3 

Another series of diversities was to be found in the 'chartered* 
provinces of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. All 
three had narrowly escaped the aggressive royalist policy of lames 
II. All three charters had been attacked by writs of Quo Warranto. 
That of Massachusetts in fact had been formally annulled in 
Chancery. 4 There was a return of chartered rights with the Revo- 
lution of 1689, though the royal governor installed in Massa- 
chusetts by James II remained a permanent institution of the 
province. The Massachusetts Province Charter of 1691 under 
William and Mary left both the Council and the House of Repre- 
sentatives elective: the latter by popular franchise, the former by 

1 For the effect of this conflict upon Indian relations and the apathy of Pennsyl- 
vania during the Seven Years' War see Osgood, American Colonies in the i8th 
Century t iv. 297, 298, 351, &c. a Id. t iv. 25. 

3 'They availed themselves of these disputes to shirk their simple duty.' 
Beer, op. cit. t p. 69. * Greene, The Provincial Governor, p. 16. 

34" D 


the Council itself and the House of Representatives in joint session 
as the 'General Court' of the province. Of the royal governor also 
Stanhope observes in 1715 that he * draws all his subsistance from 
the people and has nothing but his Commission from the King*. 1 
In Rhode Island even the governor was elective; and though 
there was a British statute providing that all governors must receive 
the approval of the Crown, the local government of the province 
was practically republican. 2 The right of disallowance of provin- 
cial Acts and the appointment of judges 'during pleasure'4-which 
usually meant the pleasure of the local Assembly were almost 
equally negligible as guarantees of 'subordination*. The nebulous 
rights of British parliamentary supremacy were seldom invoked 
except in the field of trade and navigation, and nowhere were the 
regulations more systematically evaded. 'It would be too much', 
wrote Governor Bernard of New Jersey to Lord Halifax, 'to re- 
quire an elective governor to be in earnest in discovering & prose- 
cuting frauds of trade.' Stephen Hopkins, the Governor of Rhode 
Island, stated in public in 1764 that 'the Parliament of Great 
Britain had no more right to make laws for them than they had for 
the Mohawks'. Connecticut also enjoyed an elective government 
protected by royal charter. 'These two Republics then', wrote 
Bernard, 'are the Allies of Great Britain & not the Subjects.' 3 


The 'royal' provinces of Virginia and Georgia, North and South 
Carolina, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Nova 
Scotia had much more in common. By the middle of the eighteenth 
century the Commissions under which the royal governors were 
supposed to administer their governments had become stereotyped, 
and the Instructions which accompanied the Commissions had 
begun to reflect a settled policy. Despite many inconsistencies and 
anomalies there was more hope and perhaps more actual harmony 
here than appeared upon the surface. Many of the differences 
which impressed observers likeKnox or Abercromby were due not 
to different tendencies but to wide differences of environment and 
to the rapid progress of the more highly favoured provinces through 
the primitive stages of settlement to self-support and self-govern- 

1 Stanhope, Secretary of State to Council of Trade, May 15, 1715, Nova 
Scotia, A. Series, vi. 198. 

2 7 and 8 Win. Ill, c. 22. Greene, The Provincial Governor, p. 22. 

3 Bernard to Halifax, Dec. 14, 1764, quoted by Beer, op. cit., pp. 240, 310. 


merit. The rate of development naturally varied. The stages in the 
process reached by the several 'royal' provinces at any one time 
were correspondingly varied. But the general direction was un- 
mistakable, and the tendencies were remarkably constant. 

With few exceptions New Hampshire and Nova Scotia before 
the Seven Years' War, and Quebec, East and West Florida, and 
Grenada at its close all the 'royal' provinces had originated like 
the 'proprietary plantations' in royal grants to companies or pro- 
prietors whose obligations implied, as Greene points out, the old 
feudal 'association of rights in the soil with rights of government'. 1 
Thus Virginia was granted by James I to the Virginia Company 
until a writ of Quo Warranto was served against the company in 
1624 and the charter annulled. The direct royal government then 
established continued, with a brief intermission under the Com- 
monwealth, until the American Revolution. The Commission and 
Instructions throughout came from the Crown but the mutual re- 
lations between governor, council, and House of Burgesses ad- 
justed themselves as in England by the operation of unwritten 
custom and 'convention'. Thus as early as 1641 Sir William 
Berkeley is instructed to 'summon the Burgesses . . . which to- 
gether with the Governor and Councill shall have Power to make 
Acts and Laws for the Government of that Plantation correspon- 
dent, as near as may be, to the Laws of England'. 2 That organic 
growth which after the Revolution Settlement in England settled 
into the ordered evolution of the British constitution was thus 
veritably transplanted to American soil. Despite the most deter- 
mined attempts to restrict and discipline that growth, the process 
of erosion and adjustment by which governor, council, and 
Assembly sought to settle their working conditions with each 
other continued, on one side of the Atlantic as on the other, almost 
without intermission. Indeed, in the only province with a repre- 
sentative Assembly that remained British at the American Revo- 
lution in Nova Scotia it may be said that the process has never 
ceased. 3 Largely by virtue of priority Virginia became the model 

1 'The King parts with a portion of his prerogative, and exempts this par- 
ticular piece of territory from the ordinary jurisdiction, very much as his pre- 
decessors had done when they created the palatinates of Lancaster and Durham.' 
Greene, The Provincial Governor, p. 9. 

* See the Commissions and Instructions in Greene, op. cit. t Appendix A, 
pp. 207-64. 

3 The same could be claimed for Prince Edward Island from 1773, for New 
Brunswick from 1784 and in a measure for Upper and Lower Canada from 1 791 ; 
though in the last instance, since an Assembly had been abrogated altogether 


of * royal' governments for other provinces. Not a few of the 
usages there established found their way into general practice, until 
superseded in turn by precedents established elsewhere. 

The Carolinas had been granted, like Virginia, to proprietors in 
1663, but under conditions still more reminiscent of feudalism. 
New York was granted to the Duke of York in 1664, and a part of 
the grant transferred to other proprietors to form the province of 
New Jersey. When the Duke of York succeeded to the Crown as 
James II the transition from proprietary to royal government took 
place automatically. In New Jersey a conflict between the pro- 
prietary governors and the royal customs officials, a feud amongst 
the proprietors themselves, and a very general popular demand for 
law and order, paved the way for the surrender of the charter and 
the establishment of royal government in 1702. The Carolinas, 
North and South, were the next to pass through a similar ordeal 
of anarchy and turmoil. Danger from the Spaniards, a struggle 
with the Tuscarora Indians, and the constant menace of the 
'Carolina pirates' who infested the waters of the Bahama Islands, 
all reinforced the popular discontent. Here as in the Jerseys the 
proprietary system came to an end by surrender of the charter in 
1729 and the appointment of a governor by commission from the 
Crown. The transition, however, was not complete. In the Caro- 
linas as in Prince Edward Island and Rupert's Land in Canadian 
history, certain proprietary rights in the land survived the old 
regime a costly legacy to be redeemed by an innocent posterity. 

In Georgia a royal government was contemplated from the first 
in the original grant to the Georgia trustees in 1732. By the terms 
of the charter the government of the province was to revert to the 
Crown at the end of twenty-one years. The disfavour into which 
proprietary government had fallen was warranted by the facts in 
Georgia. When William Knox went there with Governor Ellis in 
1756, two years after the transfer to the Crown, he reported 'not 
a trader in the country who imported goods from England, except 
the merchant whose first cargo went in the ship with us, and we 
were six months before we saw another topsail'. Within six years 
the annual exports amounted to 38,000. 'Such (adds Knox) are 
the effects of a good and of a bad Constitution/ * 

It is noteworthy, therefore, that of all the 'royal' provinces in 

by statute in the Quebec Act it required another statute the Constitutional Act 
of 1791 to begin the process which began elsewhere by the mere prerogative 
of the Crown. * Extra Official State Papers, ii. 20. 


North America upon the eve of the Seven Years' War, two only, 
New Hampshire and Nova Scotia, had not evolved from the semi- 
feudal status of 'proprietary plantations'. The former had come 
into existence under royal commission in 1680. In Nova Scotia, 
which had become finally British after the Treaty of Utrecht in 
1713, the final decision to continue the 'royal' government after 
the model of Virginia was reached only after years of discussion 
during which the advantages of both the other forms of govern- 
ment were exhaustively canvassed. Stanhope, the Secretary of 
State in 1715, had favoured annexation to Massachusetts with the 
double design of conciliating the NewEnglanders and of strengthen- 
ing the hands of the Governor there by increasing his resources 
in the contest with the House of Representatives. 1 As late as 1748 
Governor Shirley of Massachusetts advocated a charter based upon 
that of his own province as 'a great advantage . . . for attracting 
New England Settlers to live there'. 2 The Lords of Trade in 1737 
had recommended Coram's plan for a proprietary government like 
that of Georgia, to revert from the trustees 'entirely to the Crown' 
twenty-one years from the date of the charter. In the end the royal 
Commissions to Governor Vetch (January 20,1715) and to Governor 
Philipps (August 17, 1717) were amplified to conform to those in 
the royal provinces 'immediately under His Majesty's protection 1 , 
and an Assembly was duly convened in 1758. 


The 'royal' as distinct from the 'chartered' and the 'proprietary' 
provinces thus promised to become the dominant type in North 
America. There were quarters, it is true, where these tendencies 
were viewed askance. In the chartered provinces of Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island, and Connecticut, and in the proprietary provinces 
of Maryland and Pennsylvania, the whole policy of the Crown was 
interpreted as a studied encroachment upon chartered rights ; and 
indeed it could scarcely bear a construction entirely disinterested. 
For those provinces, however, which eventually became 'royal', 
the transition, as Greene has pointed out, was due not to the 
'natural hostility of a tyrannical government to the local liberties 
of the colonies', but upon the whole to the desire of Crown and 
colonists alike for stable government. 3 In that sense it was parallel 

1 Stanhope to Council of Trade, May 15, 1715, Nova Scotia, A. Series, vi. 

* Shirley to the Duke of Bedford, Nova Scotia, A. Series, xxxiii. 177-180. 
3 Op. cit., p. 19. 


to that process which delivered England from the anarchy and 
selfishness of feudalism by the 'popular despotism' of the New 
Monarchy. The rule of the Tudors at least began the phenomenal 
'Expansion of England*. It was equally necessary for the ordered 
development of parliamentary government against the Stuarts. 

In the 'royal' provinces, indeed, popular institutions suffered no 
eclipse in the process ; for once representative institutions began to 
function, no 'paper chains' (in Burke 's phrase) could restrain their 
slow but relentless growth. The Crown could and did instruct the 
governor of Nova Scotia to follow certain usages which were favour- 
able to the Crown in Virginia and Georgia and New Hampshire ; and 
in due time the governor of Quebec was instructed to follow similar 
usages which favoured the Crown in Nova Scotia. But there were 
limitations to this prerogative. James Abercromby, the agent for 
Virginia and North Carolina, observed in 1752 that 'Assemblys in 
America Do not look upon Instructions alone as binding on Repre- 
sentatives of the People'. Thus the governor's Instructions were 
'very positive (continues Abercromby) not to allow the sole Right 
of Money Bills to the Assembly, but such Instructions have never 
been able to Establish a Right in the Council'. 1 In truth the New 
York Assembly secured and exercised 'the power of the purse' as 
effectively as any House of Commons under the Georges, and the 
primitive Assembly of Nova Scotia at its first session began to 
follow suit. Above all, British precedents themselves were invoked 
in the contest until 'every great principle which they teach, every 
phrase of freedom to be gleaned from them', as Joseph Howe was 
wont to boast in Nova Scotia, became 'familiar as household words'. 2 

Thus while the 'chartered' provinces came to look to the barriers 
of the written bond to protect them from the encroachments of the 
Crown, the 'royal' provinces were forced to rely upon those em- 
pirical adjustments which had already prevailed in Great Britain. 
It would be rash to say that in this respect the royal province was 
looking discerningly forward while the chartered province was 
inclined to look backward ; or that the one grasped the full meaning 
of the Revolution Settlement while the other was still perhaps in 
thrall to the Instrument of Government. Neither perhaps was in a 
position to forecast the organic growth of 'the law and custom of 
the constitution'. It required, to be sure, the eye of faith to see in 

1 Shelburne Manuscripts, xlvii. 131. Pub. Arch. Can. 

a Letters to Lord John Russell, Egerton and Grant, Canadian Constitutional 
Development) p. 248. 


the embryonic powers of the provincial Assembly the 'responsible 
government' of the British Dominions. The preference of the 
chartered province for written guarantees was natural from the 
conditions under which they themselves had flourished ; when dis- 
lodged from so inadequate a defence they had no recourse but to 
'natural rights' and independence. The 'royal' governments on the 
other hand were miniature monarchies with Assemblies as tena- 
cious of their 'birthright* as Britain itself, and capable of the same 
organic evolution. Had the Crown in Britain maintained its 
supremacy for another generation or two it is conceivable that the 
ultimate ascendancy of parliaments might have been established 
part passu on both sides of the Atlantic. Professor Egerton has 
raised the interesting speculation 'what would have been the conse- 
quences had an able king boldly adopted this doctrine and recog- 
nized them as a new realm for which a third crown might have to 
be provided'. 1 It is significant that the provinces which remained 
British and eventually evolved 'responsible government' were all 
'royal' provinces and won their case by an appeal to British par- 
liamentary analogies without the necessity of invoking 'natural 
rights' or written 'guarantees'. It will perhaps suffice therefore to 
outline that particular form of government in order to gauge at the 
outset a few of these far-reaching tendencies. 

(a) The 'Royal* Governor and Council 


The governor in the 'royal' province was appointed directly in 
the name of the Crown without regard to intermediary proprietors 
as in Pennsylvania or to popular electors as in Rhode Island. In 
his own person, therefore, he represented his sovereign as actively 
as a 'burgess' in Virginia represented his constituency. In truth the 
'royal prerogative' which was entrusted to his keeping was sup- 
posed to be wider in its range than that which the sovereign exer- 
cised at home. The defence of it was his first preoccupation. 
Among the gravest objections urged by Governor Lawrence 
against the newly-elected Assembly in Nova Scotia in 1758 was 
the fear that they might 'dispute the Royal Prerogative'. 2 

The Commission which the governor received from the Crown, 
though no longer issued like that of Charles I to Governor 

1 American Revolution , p. 10. 

1 Lawrence to Lords of Trade, Sept. 26, 1758, Nova Scotia, A. Series, 61. 


Berkeley of Virginia in 1641 'per ipsum Regem', 1 ran in the king's 
name. By the middle of the eighteenth century it had become 
stereotyped, and variations to meet local contingencies were pro- 
vided as a rule only in the Instructions which accompanied the 
Commission, or in Additional Instructions which were added from 
time to time. The distinction between the Commission which 
was a letter patent under the great seal and Instructions under the 
privy seal was quickly gr&sped, as Abercromby noted in 1752, by 
the colonial Assembly. Since by the former the governor was 
authorized to make laws only 'by and with the advice and Consent 
of our said Council and Assembly', the organic 'constitution* thus 
created quickly developed unwritten 'conventions', as we have seen, 
analogous to those which attended parliamentary government in 
Great Britain . The governor might seek to confirm his prerogative, 
or he might be instructed to add to it; but his success, like that 
of the king himself in Britain, depended upon forces vastly more 
complicated than the arbitrary will of the Crown. 

Thus while the Charter, a 'written' bond, would appear at first 
sight more effectively to safeguard local rights and to prescribe the 
limitations of royal interference, 3 there is a sense in which the 
'royal' province was much more congenial to the growth of par- 
liamentary control by traditional British methods. The influence 
of Massachusetts which was undoubtedly dominant in the never- 
ending contest with the 'royal prerogative' may have been due in 
no small measure to the fact that there was a 'royal' governor in 
that province in direct juxtaposition to the most popular 'chartered' 
legislature, with the exception of the single chamber of Pennsyl- 
vania, to be found in North America. But the 'royal' province in 
the end was in a still stronger position than its 'chartered' ally. The 
Assembly of Nova Scotia originated, like the House of Commons 
itself, by summons of the Crown, and in the end the colonial 
governor shared the fate of the Crown and the royal prerogative in 
Great Britain. 3 The whole achievement of 'responsible govern- 
ment' is a commentary upon this fact. 

1 For Berkeley's Commission see Greene, op. cit. t Appendix A, p. 218. 

2 Cf. Osgood, American Colonies in the i8th Century t i. 34: 'In a certain sense 
the governors' commissions ranked with colonial charters, but commissions did 
not imply a contract and could be recalled or modified at any time without 
judicial action. This made them much less permanent and reliable, when viewed 
from the standpoint of the colonists and considered as embodying the element 
of a constitution for the individual colony.' 

3 In Upper and Lower Canada after 1791 Assemblies were established by 
Act of Parliament because an Act of Parliament the Quebec Act had previously 


The 'royal' governor in the eighteenth century, however, was 
but a pale reflection of monarchy in Great Britain. The Crown 
under George III had so far won back the prestige lost under the 
Stuarts that it aspired, upon the whole with success, to dominate 
the rest of Parliament. The hereditary principle, life-long training, 
exemplary industry, the prerogatives which controlled the creation 
of peers, the whole range of honours and of patronage which the 
Crown ^could use when it chose with almost overwhelming effect, 
enabled George III very effectively to follow his mother's injunc- 
tion, 'George, be King !' 'The power of the crown', wrote Knox in 
1768, 'was, indeed, never more visibly extensive over the great men 
of the nation'. 1 

But the king's representative in the colonies could rely upon 
few of these advantages. His tenure of office was 'during pleasure' 
and was often precarious. With the exception of the period of the 
Board of Trade's ascendancy under Halifax, the colonial patronage 
was usually a perquisite of the Southern Department. The un- 
blushing jobbery of the period of the Restoration was not in evi- 
dence, but each new constellation in the political firmament had 
its satellites. A governor had frequently to fear not only the 
friendly rivalry of those of his own circle whose prospects of em- 
ployment at home were less than first rate, but the more deadly 
rivalry of hostile factions in both countries. Threats of recall by 
a hostile ministry were frequently flaunted before the governor's 
face by the officials of his own administration. Where backstairs in- 
fluence prevailed, he was known to lament, like the humble police- 
man in The Pirates of Penzance, that his lot was 'not a happy one'. 
There were administrations like Legge's in Nova Scotia or 
Belcher's in New Jersey where this resource was upon the whole 
salutary. A hopeless misfit in the colonies could thus be ushered 
gently into oblivion through the back door. But with rapacious 
place-hunters besetting every dispenser of political patronage in 
Great Britain, the best of governors frequently found their path- 
way, as one of them expressed it, 'very slippery'. The agent 
who was sent home to procure the recall of Governor Burnet of 
Massachusetts came back with a governor's Commission for 

abrogated an Assembly altogether. But though the Constitutions' under the 
Constitutional Act, the Union Act of 1841, and the B.N.A. Act of 1867, were 
statutory, the relations between the Assembly and the Executive were still left 
indeterminate, and were, of course, eventually settled by the same method as in 
the other provinces. 

1 The Present State of the Nation, Dublin, 1768, p. 64. 

34* E 


himself. 1 Governor Murray of Quebec was a protege of James 
Oswald, the Earl of Bute, and 'the King's friends'.* His administra- 
tion was embittered by a vindictive feud with General Burton and 
the Shelburne interests. Burton's chief supporter in Montreal 
openly predicted the governor's recall 'not only tells them so', 
wrote Murray, 'but he lays considerable Wagers in public that it 
Shall be so .' ' Every post brings news that I am to be Superseded the 
next.' When Murray's recall seemed at last inevitable, he wrote 
bitterly that he was to be 'made a Sacrifice of, to Convince the 
Mob, that the present Administration, have no Connection with 
Lord Bute'. 3 Carleton, Murray's successor in Quebec, immedi- 
ately associated himself with the rival faction, and described two 
of Murray's friends in the Council one of them his relative as 
a 'Surgeon's Mate' and 'a strolling Player'. 4 Carleton himself was 
to drink the same bitter cup to the dregs under the administration 
of Lord George Germain. 

Within the colony itself the governor's footing was equally 
'slippery'. Though James Otis declared that 'a very small office in 
the customs in America had raised a man a fortune sooner than a 
Government', 5 many a 'Government' was still obviously lucrative, 
and many a governor, by methods legitimate or otherwise, must 
have retired with a fortune. 6 It is suggestive that the office was 
sometimes held by an absentee and discharged by a deputy, while 
gifts from the Assembly and grants of land within the governor's 
own province were strictly prohibited. But as a rule the governor 
found himself as cramped in the regular emoluments as in the 
tenure of his office. In a few provinces like Virginia, Georgia, and 
Nova Scotia, his salary was assured either by a fixed civil list or 

1 Greene, op. cit., pp. 48, 50. 

* Murray to Eglintoun, Oct. 27, 1764, Murray Papers, i. 170; Cramahe" to 
Murray, Feb. 9, 1765, id., iii. 262; Murray to Sir James Cockburn, Jan. 26, 
1764, id., i. 60; Murray to Ross, Dec. 4, 1765, id., i. 289, &c. Pub. Arch. Can. 

3 Murray to Burton, Oct. 17, 1765; to Ross, Dec. 4, 1765. Murray Papers, 
i. 289, 265. 

4 Carleton to Shelburne, Oct. 25, 1766, Shortt and Doughty, i. 277. 

5 Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved, Boston, 1764, p. 58. 

6 Professor Egerton cites the attempt to purchase the governorship of New 
York from Lord de la Warr for 1,000, and Greene cites the sale of that of 
Massachusetts and New Hampshire for the same sum. American Revolution, 
p. 38; Provincial Governor, p. 47. 

Governor Murray in Quebec sold captured stores of brandy for 2,400, and 
considered himself entitled to the proceeds because he 'had been the first 
Military Man, who had ever accounted for such things'. Murray Papers, i. 85 ; 
iii. 255, &c. Pub. Arch. Can. 


directly by the British Treasury. No effort was spared to make the 
office equally independent in the other provinces, but in the end 
the governor was forced to rely upon the Assembly for his salary, 
frequently in the form of annual grants accompanied by much 
huckstering and unseemly compromise. 

With these poor trappings of majesty to rely upon in the colonies, 
the governor was expected to wield almost the prerogatives of the 
Crown under the Tudors. The right of veto had lapsed in Great 
Britain* since the time of Queen Anne; the governor by his Com- 
mission was to 'enjoy a Negative Voice' over all provincial legisla- 
tion. 1 The Bill of Rights and the Mutiny Act had disposed of a 
standing army under royal control in time of peace ; the governor 
was given 'full power & Authority to Levy, Arm, Muster Com- 
mand, and Employ all persons whatsoever' * powers which the 
Assembly had little difficulty in reducing to a hollow mockery. In 
Great Britain the Mutiny Act and the Septennial Act with the 
'power of the purse' had long since ensured both the continuity of 
parliament and the periodical election of the House of Commons ; 
the governor's Commission authorized him to summon, adjourn, 
prorogue, and dissolve the Assembly at will, and his Instructions 
authorized him to fix the franchise and the electoral districts. 3 A 
Triennial Bill was vetoed in New Jersey in 1739, and a similar bill 
from New York disallowed in 1737 as against the royal prerogative 
of 'calling and continuing the Assembly at such times and for as 
long as it was thought necessary for the public service'. In 1767 
governors were expressly forbidden to assent to any Act fixing the 
duration of the Assembly. 

In Great Britain a century of controversy with regard to the 
position of the judges had been brought to a close by the Act of 
Settlement in 1702, in keeping with the settled convictions of the 
whole nation. Instead of being in effect a part of the executive 
'lions under the throne' as Bacon had advocated their indepen- 
dence was assured by appointment during good behaviour. In 
the colonies every judicial officer from chief justice to justice 
of the peace held office during pleasure; and if the judges were 
not always responsive to control it was because the pleasure of 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 176. 

1 ... 'To march, Embark, or Transport, from one place to another for the 
resisting and withstanding of all enemies, pirates & Rebels both at land and sea : 
and to Transport such Forces to any of our Plantations in America. . . .' Shortt 
and Doughty, i. 177. 

3 Cf. Instructions to Belcher, s. 13, in Greene, op. cit., p. 237. 


the Assembly was frequently more important than the pleasure 

of the Crown. 


The Council of the < royal* province was regarded as a bulwark of 
the royal prerogative, and the natural ally of the governor. The 
primary function of the Council was 'to assist ... in the Admin- 
istration of Government', but it normally exercised through the 
same personnel, usually of twelve members, legislative functions as 
a second chamber and certain judicial functions as a court of 
appeal. In the provinces originally organized as 'royal' govern- 
ments the governor was directly authorized to 'nominate and estab- 
lish a Council*. For the regular members the governor's nomina- 
tion continued as a rule to prevail. Certain ex officio members, the 
Lieutenant-Governor, the Surveyor- General of Customs, and the 
Chief Justice, were more directly appointed from Great Britain. In 
all three capacities the Council was thus as completely irresponsible 
as the governor himself to the House of Assembly, while it was 
supposed to be attached by every bond of self-interest and subor- 
dination to the governor's own office. 1 

In practice, however, an appointment to the Council during 
pleasure usually meant an appointment for life, and a coterie of 
life appointees seldom failed to reverse the official order of ascen- 
dancy. Governors might come and governors might go, but the 
self-interest of resident councillors remained a permanent if not 
always a stabilizing factor in colonial life. Thus, instead of the 
governor dominating the Executive Council as George III domi- 
nated the Cabinet, the Council when it was not itself overawed by 
the Assembly frequently dominated the governor. Their 'advice 
and Consent' was necessary in summoning the Assembly, in all 
legislation, in creating courts of judicature, in establishing cities 
and fortifications, fairs, harbours, and markets, in issuing warrants 
for the expenditure of 'all publick monies', in the granting of 
public lands, and in a variety of other functions. 2 Using their privi- 
leged position to establish a monopoly over the advice upon which 
the governor was supposed to act, they usually contrived to bend 
policy to their own interests, leaving the governor responsible to the 
home government and before the province for the consequences. 3 

But members of the Council were not always so fortunate. In 

1 Murray's Instructions, Shortt and Doughty y i. 182-205. * Ibid. 

3 For a classic outline of this process see Howe's Letters to Lord John Russell 
in Egerton and Grant, pp. 209-12. 


primitive provinces like Nova Scotia or Quebec the governor could 
sometimes ride rough-shod over them. Even in the older pro- 
vinces governors like Shirley and Spotswood, Morris and Sharpe 
and Pownall, no doubt wielded occasionally a truly vice-regal in- 
fluence. But more insidious influences normally prevailed in the 
other direction, and indeed the most pervasive influence at work 
came from another quarter. Popular opinion when thoroughly 
aroused was sometimes irresistible, and the Council in their own 
interests did not venture to run counter to it. When the Council 
was elective as in Massachusetts it merely reinforced the House of 
Representatives. In Rhode Island where the governorship itself 
was elective, the royal prerogative was little more than a shadow. 
The governor himself frequently bent before the storm, masking 
the surrender behind the advice of his Council. Governor Denny 
of Pennsylvania signed an Act taxing proprietary lands in that 
province on condition that the Assembly should indemnify him 
for the bond he was compelled to forfeit to the proprietors for 
violating his instructions. 1 Knox, writing in 1789, avowed that 
Rhode Island and Connecticut 'were not a whit more under the 
control of the King's civil authority before the revolt, than they 
now are as Independent States'.* 

While the mutual relationship between governor and Council 
thus varied with the personnel and the state of popular opinion, 
that between the Council and the Assembly was almost invariably 
hostile ; and this chronic conflict almost invariably resulted in the 
ascendancy of the Assembly. The most precise instructions were 
powerless to reverse this tendency. The governor was directed to 
resist the pretensions of the Assembly to 'Privileges no ways 
belonging to them', and particularly to 'the sole framing of Money 
Bills, refusing to let the Council alter or amend the same ; all which 
Practices are very detrimental to Our Prerogative'. It was the 
pleasure of the Crown 'that the Council have the like power of 
framing Money Bills as the Assembly'. 3 We have already noted 
Abercromby's observation that 'such Instructions have never been 
able to Establish a Right in the Council'. The 'convention' estab- 
lished by practice did not accord with the pleasure of the Crown. 
Knox found this 

'middle estate ... by way of apology for an aristocratic power . . . too 
inconsiderable to give the Crown or its Governor any effectual 

1 Dickerson, op. cit., p. 171. a Extra Official State Papers, ii, 14. 

3 Murray's Instructions, Shortt and Doughty y i. 187. 


support against the Assembly . . . and as almost all the public appoint- 
ments, and all the jobs are made by the Assembly, the poor Counsel- 
lors have nothing to console themselves with, for the loss of popularity, 
by being considered as dependants of the Governor, but the barren 
and temporary title of Honourable. Hence it is that the men of the 
greatest property and weight in the province prefer being members of 
the Assemblies to seats in the Council/ I 

In the British provinces after the Revolution Knox's favourite 
design of strengthening the Councils, of fortifying an endowed 
church, and of circumscribing the powers of Assemblies, was pur- 
sued with greater success. The conflict was thus confined to the 
province, and took the form of a contest between rival local in- 
terests, aspiring, the one by virtue of royal appointment, the other 
by virtue of popular representation, to control the executive. Before 
the Revolution the conflict was more deadly because it could not 
be localized. The governor and the Assembly and through them 
the home government and the province were brought directly 
into collision. These were the nominal, if not always the real, 
protagonists of governance on the one side and of self-government 
on the other. The duel between them is fought out in practically 
every province of 'the American empire' sometimes with rancour 
and bitterness, sometimes with mutual forbearance which gave 
promise of better things. 

(b) The Assembly 


If the governor was but a pale reflection of monarchy, the 
Assembly was a very vital counterpart of the House of Commons. 
Nothing in Britain before the Reform Bill of 1832, or perhaps long 
after it, compared with the colonial Assembly in its immediate 
responsiveness to popular opinion. The franchise was broader, 
the indirect resources at the disposal of the Crown for controlling 
or corrupting the electorate were incomparably fewer, and there 
was nothing but 'an apology for an aristocratic power* or an estab- 
lished church to redress the balance. 

Professor Egerton has traced among the fundamental causes 
'almost inevitably leading the way to separation', this fatal diver- 
gence between parliamentary institutions in Britain and in America. 
Despite a common origin and in the end a common destiny in 
1 Extra Official State Papers, 11.21. 


virtually democratic government, the crisis came upon them in the 
eighteenth century at vastly 'different stages of development'. 1 The 
first revolt against the Stuarts was still a vital and creative tradition 
in America. Thus the governor of New Jersey reported in 1743 
that the members of his Assembly were * generally so fond of the 
example of the parliament of 1641 & that of their neighbours in 
Pensilvania & New England, that until some measures are taken 
in England to reduce them to propper limits I suspect they will not 
mend much'.* In England these traditions had so far been tem- 
pered, first by the Restoration, and even after the Revolution 
Settlement by the reascendancy of the monarchy, that few dared 
openly to avow them. While British parliamentary government in 
relation to the total population of Britain was in effect an oligarchy 
which tended to 'narrow' until power rested in the hands of a close 
landed aristocracy, it was obvious to every observer that the other 
branch of the family was passing rapidly to another polity. 'How- 
ever long the forms and appearance of a Royal Government might 
be kept up', wrote William Knox, 'a real and pure democracy must 
soon be the true description of their Constitutions." 5 

This variation in development was still further accentuated by 
the reaction in Britain after the Seven Years' War. Never surely 
was there a more ominous conjunction of Mars and Saturn in the 
horoscope of the nation. The obliteration of party distinctions 
during a victorious but ruinously wasteful war now enabled a 
'patriot king' to play the 'despot among the ruins of parliamentary 
parties'. 4 By the king's policy of 'dependent administrations' even 
the aristocratic oligarchy had been brought to submit to a sedulous 
and vigilant monarchy. In The Present State of the Nation, 1768, 
it is stated that 'the power of the crown was, indeed, never more 
visibly extensive over the great men of the nation ; but then (Knox 
was constrained to add) the great men have lost their influence 
over the lower order of the people ; even parliament has lost much 
of its reverence with the subjects of the realm. . . . Government 
relaxed in every sinew, and a corrupt selfish spirit pervading the 
whole !' 5 The accuracy of this dismal picture was commended by 
Grenville himself, to whom it was dedicated, and whose confidence 
Knox was still proud to possess. 6 

1 American Revolution, pp. 21, 22. * Quoted in Greene, op. cit., p. 178. 

3 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 22. 

4 Hertz, The Old Colonial System, p. 36. 

5 The Present State of the Nation, Dublin, 1768, pp. 64-5. 

6 'I have read over the Papers (The State of the Nation) . . . with the greatest 


The glories of victory were thus swallowed up in the disillusion- 
meats of peace. Even Chatham moved in a 'dim twilight of popu- 
larity'. 'I do not suppose', wrote Burke in 1772, 'that there was 
ever anything like this stupor in any period of our history.' 1 The 
House of Commons was 'mortgaged to the court*. The public 
seemed so 'utterly careless and supine* that exertion was taken to 
indicate rather 'a restlessness of spirit than a manly zeal'. 

'I am satisfied (continued Burke) that within a few years tfrere has 
been a great change in the national character. We seem no longer that 
eager, inquisitive, jealous, fiery people which we have been formerly. 
. . . The people look back, without pleasure or indignation; and for- 
ward, without hope or fear. . . . 

If things are left to themselves, it is my clear opinion that a nation 
may slide down fair and softly from the highest point of grandeur 
and prosperity to the lowest state of imbecility and meanness, without 
any one's marking a particular period in this declension. ... I am 
certain that if pains, great and immediate pains, are not taken to 
prevent it, such must be the fate of this country.' 2 


While this torpor benumbed the nation at home, the political 
aptitudes of Britons in America were not unlike those of their 
ancestors from the accession of James I to the Revolution Settle- 
ment in Great Britain. Differences of environment, though less 
marked than those now everywhere recognized within the British 
Commonwealth, already reflected grave differences of outlook and 
temper. The economic * frontier ' had already appeared in 
American life. But we are here concerned with the political 
' frontier J of British policy in the old colonial system, and in 
this the colonial Assembly was running true to form. Parlia- 
mentary government was perhaps more instinctive in America 
than in England, and in more than one province, ' royal ' as well 
as ' chartered ' or ' proprietary ', it was asserted with a spirit 

pleasure. They are written with so much temper and force, with so much know- 
ledge and precision, that I am persuaded they will do you great honour, if ever 
you shall think fit to avow yourself as the author of them. The general opinions 
laid down in them, correspond sb much with my declared opinions, and are so 
favourable to the public measures I have pursued, that to express my appro- 
bation of them to you, who are so perfectly acquainted with them both, must be 
unnecessary.* Rt. Hon. George Grenville to Knox, Oct. 9, 1768, Extra Official 
State Papers, ii. Appendix, p. 23. 

1 Burke to Wm. Dowdeswell, Oct. 27, 1772. 

* Burke to Rockingham, Aug. 23, 1775. 


nearer perhaps than that of the House of Commons itself to the 
traditions of the Revolution Settlement. 

If being British, therefore, consisted of doing what Britons 
themselves had done under similar circumstances, the North 
American colonies of the eighteenth century were unmistakably 
British. The controversy between governance and self-govern- 
ment took many forms, but there was scarcely a phase of it where 
precedent or analogy was not to be found in British history. 
Legalists might maintain that the colonial Assembly was merely 
an elaborate town council under a sovereign Parliament; or that 
two millions and a half of Britons in America like 50,000 Britons 
in Manchester before the Reform Bill were Virtually represented* 
in the House of Commons. Tories like Knox could still scout the 
pretensions of the colonists to 'all the liberties, rights, and privi- 
leges of his majesty's subjects in Great Britain'; or 'the absurdity 
of their idea of a polypus government, where a head sprouts out of 
every joint'. 1 But those who had courage to face realities to sweep 
aside 'the monstrous idea of Virtual Representation* and even 
Chatham's fine-spun distinction between general legislation and 
taxation confronted not a theory but a fact. The colonists in 
America were disconcertingly like their ancestors at home. 
America 'had the image of the British constitution. She had the 
substance'. In methods of growth, in procedure, and above 'all in 
power, the Assembly did not belie its lineage. With two millions 
and a half of Britons in America and every prospect of four 
millions within that generation, ' metaphysical distinctions' would 
not long suffice. Nobody, Burke exclaimed, will be argued into 
slavery ; and even the advocates of coercion conceded that boasted 
claims 'if not speedily and effectively enforced, will soon (be) 
found as ridiculous, as the Cham of Tartary's gracious permission 
to the potentates of the earth to sit down to their dinners'. 2 

Thus the issues that were petty current politics in Britain were 
charged with history in America. The Triennial Bill which New 
York and New Jersey passed in vain in 1737 and 1739 were 
strangely reminiscent of the Triennial Act by which the Long 
Parliament sought to remedy 'the discontinuance of Parliaments' 
after the eleven years of Charles I's arbitrary government. The 

1 The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies Reviewed, William 
Knox, London, 1769, pp. 10, 96. 

* A Letter to the Rt. Hon. Wills Earl of Hillsborough on the Connection between 
Great Britain and her American Colonies, London, 1768, p. 14. 

34U F 


struggle for the independence of the judges was merely a repetition 
of the earlier struggle to free the bench from 'the rod over them'. 
Parliament had vindicated this independence for England. Were 
Englishmen in America to be content with * lions under the throne' ? 
The supremacy of the Commons over money bills was nowhere 
contested in Great Britain. The royal instructions to accord to 
Councils in America 'the like Power of framing Money Bills as the 
Assembly' could bear but one interpretation. If the claims of 
James I arbitrarily to tax currants going into London imperilled 
parliamentary control of taxation, what was to be said of the 
arbitrary taxation of tea going into Boston ? Could the resistance 
to it be dismissed, as William Knox dismissed it, as 'an instance of 
infatuation unparalelled in the history of mankind' ? I The rooted 
suspicions of a standing army had been a national obsession from 
the Petition of Right to the Bill of Rights. A standing army of 
10,000 men in America in time of peace could scarcely fail to 
prompt Daniel Dulany's ironical inquiry if these men were in- 
tended 'to defend the Colonists against Themselves'.* 

'The feelings of the colonies', Burke said truly, 'were formerly 
the feelings of Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feelings of 
Mr. Hampden when called upon for the payment of twenty shil- 
lings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hamp den's fortune ? 
No ! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it 
was demanded, would have made him a slave. '3 Could an English- 
man in America pay stamp-money for a standing army without re- 
flecting upon ship-money in England ? There was much to be said 
about 'duty' and patriotism and fair play to the British tax-payer, 
but there was more than rhetoric in Chatham's solemn warning 
against 'dragooning the Bostonians into what is called their duty 5 . 

'Full well I knew that the offspring of such ancestors would resist 
upon the same principles, and on the same occasions. ... If then we 
applaud our ancestors for obtaining such liberties for us, at a time when 
all the rights of Englishmen were trampled upon, and despotism had 
trodden down the laws surely we cannot in reason, deny that portion of 
liberty . . . to our own brethren brethren by the same common parent, 
and who are unquestionably heirs of the same glorious inheritance.' 4 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 9. 

2 Considerations on the Propriety of Imposing Taxes in the British Colonies Jor 
the Purpose of Raising a Revenue by Act of Parliament , London (reprinted), 
1766, p. 59. 3 Speech on American Taxation. 

* Speech of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Cfiatham in the House of Lords> Friday ', 
the 20th of January, J?75, Dublin (n.d.) PP- 91, 93- 


In that sense the gravest danger lay not in the recognition of 
political differences but in the failure to recognize fundamental 
resemblances. In truth the differences merely accentuated the 
resemblances, for while the powers of governance in the hands of 
the governor and the British Government were technically as for- 
midable as those of the Tudors, the agencies for self-government 
were as dynamic as those which destroyed the Stuarts. The bottles 
were older, the wine was newer, and the disaster was devastating 
beyond calculation. Thus, while Britain itself was passing through 
an eclipse of parliamentary government at home, 'a scheme of 
government new in many things' began to cast its shadow across 
the Atlantic. The American colonists, trained in the rugged school 
of colonial politics to the exercise of initiative and self-reliance, 
found themselves involved for the first time in a controversy which 
went to the roots of parliamentary government. In the memorable 
words of Burke, 'they were, it is true, as yet novices; as yet un- 
accustomed to direct attacks upon any of the rights of parliament 1 . 1 
As the issues clarified it is impossible to ignore the stirrings of a 
new spirit. With faith in their star and without false modesty they 
began to look beyond 'metaphysical distinctions' and to contem- 
plate realities; for as the greatest of them was slowly driven to 
suspect, the 'systematic assertion of an arbitrary power' not only 
ran counter to 'an innate spirit of freedom' but was 'subversive of 
the laws and constitution of Great Britain itself, in the establish- 
ment of which some of the best blood in the kingdom has been 



From the humble beginnings of self-government in the Virginian 
House of Burgesses in 1619 to the first Continental Congress in 
1774 nothing was more remarkable than the spontaneous growth 
of the Assemblies planted by the Crown in that fertile and fallow 
soil. As in Britain itself the secret of this was the power of the 

The sums voted by provincial Assemblies for civil government 
were almost incredibly small. If British liberties, as Hallam re- 
marks, have been as a rule 'purchased by money', 3 never surely 

1 Speech on American Taxation. 

Washington to Bryan Fairfax, Aug. 24, 1774; Washington to Capt. Robert 
Mackenzie, Oct. 9, 1774. Writings, ed. Jared Sparks, ii. 397, 400. 
3 Middle Ages, iii. 162. 


was there thriftier bargaining than in the process by which the 
colonial Assemblies acquired power in North America. 'The Taxes 
which the People pay in this Country', wrote General Loudoun in 
1757, 'are really so trifling, that they do not deserve the Name/ 1 
The civil establishment of New Jersey was less than 1,500; that 
of Rhode Island scarcely 3,500; of Connecticut 4,000; of 
Virginia 8,000; of New York less than 5,000. That of Massa- 
chusetts in time of peace was given by Governor Pownall as 'ster- 
ling i2,93y. ios.'. These petty sums, however, were scrutinized 
as jealously as the House of Commons had ever scrutinized a 
maletote ; and they sufficed in the end to thwart the most ingenious 
devices of the Crown to reverse the normal functions of taxation. 
In a few of the provinces the Crown had the advantage of perma- 
nent civil lists ; but the independence thus secured to the service 
was seldom repaid in the form of sound administration. The 
negligence of absentees and the venal abuses too often chargeable 
against resident officials were not calculated to commend the ex- 
periment to others. In provinces without fixed civil lists a corrupt 
regime like that of the egregious Governor Cornbury in New York 
was usually sufficient to create a demand for direct supervision as 
well as vigilance on the part of the Assembly. By the middle of 
the eighteenth century there was not an Assembly in North 
America where the subtle relationship between taxation and con- 
trol was not thoroughly understood. 

The royal province of New York may be taken to illustrate these 
tendencies. As early as 1704 the Assembly had refused to permit 
the amendment of a money bill by the Council, in defiance of the 
most explicit instructions to the contrary. Not satisfied with the 
control of supply the Assembly took steps to control expenditure. 
Although the governor's instructions forbade him to 'suffer any 
publick money whatsoever to be issued or disposed of otherwise 
than by warrant under your hand', the House enforced its claim 
first to scrutinize the public accounts, then to appoint its own 
treasurer, to supervise expenditure through its own commissioners, 
and finally to restrict the payment of public funds to their warrants 
and 'no other order mandate or warrants whatsoever*. 2 By 1739 
the fiscal supremacy of the Assembly was assured. 'Salaries of 
officers were ordered paid by name and amount', usually in the 
form of annual grants. The governor still issued warrants for 

1 Beer, op. cit., p. 292. 

a Dickerson, op. cit., pp. 159-61. Osgood, op. cit., ii. 84. 


officials directly appointed by the Crown, but the names appeared 
also in the appropriation bills, and the governor's unfettered con- 
trol appears to have been restricted to a contingent fund of 100 
per year. All this was termed by the Board of Trade 'a violation 
of the constitution of the government of that province . . . deroga- 
tory to her Majesty's royal prerogative'. 1 

The practice in New York was emulated by less assertive pro- 
vinces and inspired in some respects by others still more aggressive. 
Thus North Carolina where there was supposed to be a permanent 
civil list not only appointed its own treasurer but controlled ex- 
penditure through its own commissioners whose supervision ex- 
tended to almost every sphere of administration from the building 
of bridges to the making of treaties with the Indians. In New 
Jersey the Assembly not only overrode the Council on money bills 
but refused in 1761 to vote the salary of any judge who should 
accept a commission from the Crown 'during pleasure'. It was not 
until Governor Hardy had issued commissions accordingly 'during 
good behaviour' and had been dismissed 'as a necessary example 
to deter others' that the Assembly could be induced to waive the 
point. 2 In the chartered provinces the power of the purse was still 
more ruthlessly exercised. On one occasion Governor Shute of 
Massachusetts found it necessary to forego his salary, and Gover- 
nor Belcher implied that the House of Representatives th^re was 
virtually governor of the province since 'they that have the controul 
of the money will certainly have the power'. 3 


By regarding the forms of colonial government as static rather 
than kinetic, it is possible to represent this development as a 
'subversion of the whole constitution' of the colonies. Perhaps it 
would be nearer the truth to say that tendencies so spontaneous, 
had they been magnanimously recognized, would have been less 
subversive than the attempt to thwart and to circumscribe them ; 
for success in that design might have subverted a nobler tradition, 
'At some time or other', said Burke, 'it will come home to England/ 
Lord Morley has the dictum that 'the ruin of the American cause 
would have been also the ruin of the constitutional cause in 
England'. 4 Tendencies so clearly discernible in England during 
the seventeenth century could scarcely have reappeared in nine- 

1 Dickerson, op. cit., pp. 163-5. * Id., p. 153. 

3 Id., pp. 168-9. * < Morley's Burke, 1888, p. 87. 


teen separate British colonies during the eighteenth and in more 
than a score during the nineteenth without a touch of organic 
nature in their kinship. 

To the student of Canadian history especially there is something 
strangely familiar in these chronic symptoms of the first Empire. 
It is true that there were elements of hope in the nineteenth cen- 
tury that were almost altogether wanting in the eighteenth. There 
was free trade with a Whig ascendancy, instead of eighteenth- 
century mercantilism and a 'patriot king'. There was an Eairl Grey 
at the Colonial Office with Charles Buller in the background in- 
stead of a Grenville or a Hillsborough in office served by the mor- 
dant toryism of William Knox. But the problem was essentially 
the same, and the infirmities of human nature responded to the 
same narrow impulses. Reformers under Governor Bernard and 
Sir Francis Head alike are 'rebels' and 'republicans'. Let it be 
added also that Assemblies are alike factious and short-sighted. 
Can it be said that Papineau in Lower Canada was nearer 'the 
great arcanum' than Franklin in Pennsylvania? In truth the 
American colonies were working out their own salvation in their 
own way. The plaint of the 'poor Commons' under James I was 
at last redressed. It was the prerogative of the Crown which was 
now 'at an everlasting stand'. 1 

The control hitherto exercised indirectly by the Crown was in 
truth effective enough only to be thoroughly vexatious. The powers 
of veto and of disallowance Dickerson has recorded nearly four 
hundred instances from 1696 to 17652 were not in themselves 
objects of general attack. Still less was the practice of 'suspending' 
the operation of colonial laws pending the approval of the Crown. 
There were ready means of circumventing all these. In certain 
parts of the field, it is true, the Crown stubbornly held its own. It 
refused to countenance anything in the nature of an Act to secure 
the frequency or continuity of the Assemblies . It fixed the electoral 
districts, and as a rule adjourned, prorogued, and dissolved at 
pleasure, though it could not prevent a dissolved Assembly arising 
like Antaeus stronger than ever. Perhaps the most determined 
measure of indirect control was the appointment of the judges 
'during pleasure'. After the experience of Governor Hardy in New 
Jersey and of Governor Clinton in New York, colonial governors 
were forbidden 'upon pain of being removed from your govern- 

1 Apology of the Commons, June 20, 1604, Prothero, Statutes and Consti- 
tutional Documents, 7559-7625, p. 289. z Dickerson, op. dt. y p. 227. 


ment' to grant commissions other than 'during pleasure only'. 1 
But these instances of successful control were exceptional. As a 
rule the home government, in the scathing words of Professor 
Egerton, 'combined the opposite faults of excessive meddlesome- 
ness and of excessive weakness', and indeed scarcely deserved 'the 
praise it has sometimes received for leaving the colonies alone'. 2 
With the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, as in those wars of the 
Edwards which had established the early powers of the House of 
Commons, the ascendancy of the Assemblies could scarcely be 

Every shekel that he doth receive 
Doth cost a limb of his prerogative. 

With every will to confirm 'the dependence which the colonies 
ought to have upon the government of the mother country', and to 
make the governor and the executive officers of the colony, like the 
judges before them, 'independent of the factious will and caprice 
of an assembly', it would be necessary, as Governor Dobbs of 
North Carolina suggested, to await 'a glorious peace', when 'His 
Majesty will have no great demands upon this province'. 3 Mean- 
while the exigencies of war wrought havoc with these lilliputian 
calculations, and the measures that were finally devised to deal 
with them belong to another category. 


In 1754, on the eve of the Seven Years' War, an intercolonial 
congress, convened by Lieut.-Governor De Lancey of New York 
under the directions of the Board of Trade, met at Albany for the 
purpose of devising some unity of action with regard to the French 
wars and the Indians. Resolving unanimously that united action 
was 'absolutely necessary', the delegates under the influence of 
Benjamin Franklin approved of a Plan of Union to be established 
by Act of Parliament. In Franklin's plan the central command 
was to be vested in a President General to be appointed by the 
Crown. A Grand Council, to be elected by the colonial Assemblies 

1 Id.y p. 204. Governor Clinton had granted a commission to Chief Justice 
De Lancey 'during good behaviour', and the grant was pronounced by the law 
officers of the Crown 'good in point of law'. Both Clinton's and Hardy's com- 
missions had to be revoked by inducing the judges to resign and to accept 
commissions 'during pleasure'. Id., pp. 200, 205. 

2 Egerton, American Revolution, p. 41. 

3 Board of Trade, Nov. u, 1761, quoted in Dickerson, op. cit., p. 204; id., 
p. 179. 


for three years, was to be charged with the task of raising and 
voting the funds necessary for their security and defence. The 
spontaneity of this plan is illustrated by the fact, according to 
Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, that the delegates 'forbid their 
Secretary to give any Copy, except to the Colonies'. De Lancey 
sent the plan to the Board of Trade but the whole scheme mis- 
carried. The colonial Assemblies failed to ratify it 'with the same 
unanimity with which their representatives had adopted the plan'. 
As late as 1789 Franklin maintained that had the Albany plan been 
put into operation the separation from the mother country might 
have been postponed for a century. 1 

More intent than Franklin himself upon the cause of inter- 
colonial union for self-defence was another colonist who after his 
appointment as governor of his adopted province naturally ap- 
proached the problem from another angle. Shirley, 'the ablest 
colonial governor of his time', 2 was not present at the Albany Con- 
gress, though he had not only commended it to other governors 
in America, but had been instrumental in sending from Massa- 
chusetts the only commissioners to the Congress with a mandate 
to conclude 'articles of Union and Confederation ... for the 
General Defence of his Majesty's Subjects and Interests in North 
America as well in time of Peace as of War'.3 Shirley objected, 
however, to Franklin's Plan of Union that it followed too closely 
'the old charter form of government', and was therefore unsuited 
for an 'Imperium over all the Colonies'. 'I am labouring this 
point, totis viribus', he wrote to Governor Morris of Pennsylvania. 
'Lose no time for promoting the Plan of an Union of the Colonies 
for their mutual Defence to be concerted at home, and establish 'd 
by Act of Parliament, as soon as possible.' 4 

From the record of Shirley's private intercourse with Franklin 
it is clear that the governor contemplated a Grand Council, ap- 
pointed like the provincial Councils by the Crown, and an Act of 
Parliament to assess the quota for each province, leaving it 'to 
their Choice to raise the Sum assessed upon them according to 
their own discretion'. 5 Shirley's days of influence in America were 
numbered he was recalled in 1756 and his labours for colonial 

1 Beer, op. cit., pp. 18-23, 3 J 3> & c -* Osgood, op. cit., iv. 316-21. 

2 Beer, op. cit., p. 49. For a brilliant analysis of Shirley's methods and 
success see Osgood, Massachusetts under Shirley, op. cit., Part III, ch. iv. 

3 Correspondence of William Shirley, ed. Lincoln, ii. 61. 

4 Shirley to Sir Thomas Robinson, Dec. 14, 1754, id., ii. 1 16 ; id., ii. 96. 

5 Id., ii. 103; Beer, op. cit., p. 49. 


defence passed into the hands of others ; but the project of this 
greatest and most popular imperialist of his day has a melancholy 
interest far beyond the range of its immediate influence. It drew 
from Franklin a memorandum of prophetic insight that might 
almost have been written after Franklin himself as plenipotentiary 
for thirteen independent colonies had affixed his signature to the 
Treaty of Versailles : 

'In Matters of General Concern to the People, and especially where 
Burthens are to be laid upon them, it is of Use to consider as well 
what they will be apt to think and say, as what they ought to think. . . . 
First, they will say, and perhaps with Justice, that the Body of the 
People in the Colonies are as loyal ... as any Subjects in the King's 
Dominions; . . . That the People in the Colonies ... are likely to 
be better judges of the Quantity of Forces necessary to be raised and 
maintain 'd . . . than the Parliament of England at so great a Distance. 
. . . That it is suppos'd an undoubted Right of Englishmen not to be 
taxed but by their own Consent given thro* their Representatives. . . . 
That to propose taxing them by Parliament, and refusing them the 
Liberty of chusing a Representative Council to meet in the Colonies, 
and consider and judge of the Necessity of any General Tax and the 
Quantum, shews a Suspicion of their Loyalty to the Crown, or Regard 
for their Country, or of their Common Sense and Understanding 
which they have not deserv'd. . . . That a Power in Governors to 
march the Inhabitants from one End of the British and French 
Colonies to the other . . . would put them on a Footing with the 
Subjects of France in Canada. . . . That if the Colonies in a Body may 
be well governed by Governors and Councils, appointed by the 
Crown, without Representatives, particular Colonies may as well or 
better be so governed ; a Tax may be laid on them all by Act of Par- 
liament; for Support of Government, and their Assemblies dismissed, 
as a useless Part of their Constitution. . . . 

Then, the Administration . . . not having any Representative Body 
of the People to approve and unite in its Measures, and conciliate the 
Minds of the People to them, will probably become suspected and 
odious. Animosities and dangerous Feuds will arise between the 
Governors and the Governed, and every Thing go into Confusion.' 1 

Meanwhile a third project was being matured at the Board of 
Trade under the directions of the ablest administrator who had 
ever presided over that much-maligned body. Five days before 
the opening of the Albany Congress the same problem had been 
referred to the Board by the king himself, and the dominant in- 
fluence of Lord Halifax is found in the most promising plan ever 

1 Franklin to Shirley, Dec. 4, 1754, Shirley Correspondence > ii. 103-7. 


devised for the defence of the first Empire. The appointment of 
a Commander-in-Chief over all forces in America was to be made 
by the Crown, but the obligations of the several provinces were 
to be reviewed by commissioners selected by the provinces them- 
selves, seven to constitute a quorum, with powers to determine the 
force required, the cost, and the quota to be contributed by each. 
The plan was to be drafted in its final form by the provincial com- 
missioners themselves, submitted by them to the provincial legis- 
latures for approval or amendment, and finally ratified^ by the 
Crown. 1 

The restriction ot the project to defence and Indian relations, 
and its adaptability, as Halifax emphasized, to colonial conditions 
and government, were features of remarkable promise ; but by the 
time the plan had run the gauntlet of official criticism it was 
apparent that something more than defence was in the minds of 
British officialdom. 'The provinces', objected Charles Townshend, 
'have been for many years engaged in a skillful design of drawing 
to themselves the ancient and established prerogatives wisely pre- 
served in the crown as the only means of continuing the superin- 
tendency of the mother country.' The Crown would be 'sacrificing 
our only security for their dependence upon us' if the granting of 
supply were to be left to the colonies. Townshend commended 
the principle of a permanent revenue in America by Act of Parlia- 
ment. 'Thus spoke reinvigorated officialdom', adds Osgood, 'and 
it was quite time that the policy to which it referred was tried if 
the imperial system . . . was ever to be put in operation'. 2 


But there were yet to be thirteen years of grace before Towns- 
hend 's scheme of taxing the colonies as 'security for their depen- 
dence' was so light-heartedly launched in the port duties of 1767. 
Meanwhile the storm for which Franklin and Shirley and Halifax 
had been desperately preparing was already upon them. The 
Seven Years' War had begun, and what Shirley had called 'the 
natural tendency of their government' in America was reinforced 
by conditions almost altogether unforeseen to make such a policy 
as Townshend 's forever impossible. 

Chatham's practice of subsidizing the provincial Assemblies in 
proportion to their exertions in the war produced, in the aggre- 
gate, results that were unprecedented in colonial history. No 

1 Osgood, op. cit., iv. 323 IT. * Id.> pp. 326-7. 


British appeal had ever inspired a nobler response than the circu- 
lar letter of December, 1757, drew from Massachusetts, New York, 
and Connecticut. The traditions of Shirley's governorship in 
Massachusetts had shown what could be done in the most popular 
of colonial governments through the agency of faith and goodwill 
without compromising the just prerogatives of the Crown. The 
traditions of the Chatham regime during the Seven Years' War 
showed what could be done by a British minister who, instead of 
exploiting the checks upon popular institutions, dared to appeal 
boldly to their virtues in order to command their confidence and 
thus to liberate their incomparable energies. Not without know- 
ledge and not without reason was Chatham's passionate appeal in 
1775 directed to some measure of 'mutual confidence' 'some- 
thing to trust to' before the first drop of blood should make 
reconciliation impossible. 

But the magic of Chatham's influence in itself revealed how 
sudden was the emergency and how rare his magnanimity. To 
William Knox 'the new mode of application to the Assemblies 
introduced by Mr. Pitt' was only an incitement to colonial 'ideas 
of their own future greatness' a fatal policy 'which having opened 
to them a direct intercourse with the throne, led them to assume 
all the importance of Parliaments'. 1 The war with its inequalities 
of sacrifice, moreover, had left behind a legacy of odious com- 
parisons. Beer has estimated that seven-tenths of all the colonial 
troops raised during the war were contributed by Massachusetts, 
New York, and Connecticut, with less than one-third of the popu- 
lation . On the other hand , the proprietary Assemblies and several of 
the others availed themselves of local disputes with their governors 
or Councils 'to shirk their simple duty'. The system was declared 
to be 'inherently vicious'. The fact that the British Government 
might go farther and fare much worse and conversely that the 
voluntary response of self-governing British Dominions would one 
day dwarf the entire armaments of the Seven Years' War was 
of course beyond the ken of eighteenth-century statesmanship. 
Much, therefore, from the standpoint of fair play was to be said for 
a more ambitious scheme devised to rest more equitably upon the 
resources of 'the American empire' as a whole. 3 Had the issue been 
confined scrupulously to the problem of colonial defence, had no 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 23. 

3 For contemporary thought in favour of parliamentary taxation for America 
see Egerton, American Revolution, pp. 70-7. 


ulterior purposes lurked beneath the project of securing a revenue 
in America, had suspicion, that most malignant of political infirmi- 
ties, not been aroused among those whose goodwill would have 
been cheap at any price, had the menace of foreign war and French 
power to the north continued to operate, it is conceivable, as 
Franklin himself admitted in 1764, that 'a revenue arising out of 
the American trade' might have passed unchallenged. 1 

But with the advent of peace there was a new heaven and a new 
if not a better earth. Neither the urgency of the problem nor the 
outlook and temper of the colonies themselves could ever again 
be the same. Knox afterwards maintained that the colonies already 
contemplated 'an American empire, in which the British isles and 
possessions should be absorbed'. 2 Franklin himself after the re- 
duction of Canada wrote that the 'foundations of the future gran- 
deur and stability of the British empire lie in America'. Yet the 
very provinces which had flung themselves most ardently into the 
war without counting the cost now found themselves in common 
with the other colonies 'proceeded against as delinquents, or, at 
best, as people under suspicion of delinquency; and in such 
manner, as they imagined, their recent services in the war did not 
at all merit'. In addition to the general indictment attuned to 
'duty' and 'a fair share of the burden', they had reason to reflect 
with some bitterness upon the contemptuous criticism which 
colonial conditions and in particular the colonial militia had almost 
invariably received at the hands of British officers. 3 To this source 
the greatest of the Chief Justices of the United States has attributed 
much of the irremediable bitterness of the Revolutionary War. 
French power was broken, national danger was past, and the 
chronic conflict between governance and self-government could 
be fought out, like Sir Lucius O'Trigger's duel, 'in peace and 
quietness'. Such were the auspices under which a design that 
might have been defensible in 1754 became one of the most 
devastating and mischievous projects in British history. 


The determination to maintain by parliamentary taxation a 
standing army of 10,000 men in America at the close of the most 
victorious of colonial wars, was not unattended by other designs 

1 Egerton, American Revolution, p. 73. 2 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 23. 

3 Not merely officers of the type of Braddock and Loudoun but men like 
Generals Amherst, Murray, and Wolfe. See Egerton, American Revolution, 
p. 19; Beer, op. cit., 173 ff. 


which went far to justify colonial suspicions and to make them in 
the end ineradicable. We have seen that the temptation to reverse 
the normal functions of taxation and to make British officials 
'independent of the factious will and caprice of an assembly' was 
not new. Stanhope, in proposing to annex Nova Scotia to Massa- 
chusetts in 1715, observed that it would make the governor 'more 
independent, and much better able to serve the Crown than he is 
at present, while he draws all his subsistence from the people'. 1 
The wliole struggle over fixed salaries and a permanent civil list 
had turned upon the policy of liberating the officials of government 
from 'the power of the purse' in the hands of the Assembly. In 
the very act of surrender, when permission to accept annual grants 
was made general in 1735, the Board advised, for the governor at 
least, a fixed salary payable out of permanent royal revenues 'by 
which the governor will become entirely independent of the 
people'.- Martin Bladen's project of a Stamp Tax in 1726 the 
prototype of Grenville's ill-starred measure was devised with the 
same object in view. Governor Shirley himself wrote in 1755 that 
'Independency* was impossible in America, 'whilst His Majesty 
hath 7000 Troops kept up within them, & in the Great Lakes upon 
the back of six of them, with the Indians at command . . . provided 
the Governors and principal Civil Officers are Independent of the 
Assemblies for their Subsistence V 

And thus it came to pass that perhaps the first clear-cut issue 
of ' independence ' imported into 'the American question' was the 
design of making the imperial system independent of the local 
Assemblies. With a standing army of twenty battalions in America 
in view, the Sugar Bill was introduced in 1764. For the first time 
it was stated that 'it is just and necessary that a revenue be raised' 
in America, and that it should 'be from time to time disposed of 
by Parliament towards defraying the necessary expenses of de- 
fending, protecting, and securing the British colonies in America'. 
Burke has recorded in words too well known to require repetition 
'the symptoms of a great change' at this time 'a scheme of 
government new in many things' defended in parliament by the 
brilliant talents of Charles Townshend who 'did dazzle them by 
playing before their eyes the image of a revenue to be raised in 
America'. The implications of the Sugar Act were scarcely seen 

1 Nova Scotia, A. Series, vi. 198. 

2 The case of Governor Belcher in Massachusetts. Dickerson, op. cit., p. 188. 

3 Beer, op. cit., p. 266. 


at the time in America, though with the tightening of the mercan- 
tile system, the extension of Vice- Admiralty Courts and the Mutiny 
Act, and the other regulations of the Grenville regime it was 
obvious that the whole glittering machinery of imperial organiza- 
tion was being put into motion. With the Stamp Act of the 
following year Grenville advanced to direct parliamentary 
taxation, to be enforced in Vice- Admiralty Courts in which British 
officials administered British laws without even the formalities 
of a jury. 

The resistance which culminated in the Stamp Act Congress of 
October, 1765, and led to the repeal of the Act was the measure of 
the awakening in America to the meaning of 'the new colony 
system'. James Otis wrote that it did more in a few months to stir 
opinion in the colonies than all that had gone before. When the 
measure was repealed by the Rockingham administration Burke 
maintained that the calm after so violent a storm was * without 
parallel in history'. But Grenville solemnly assured the king that 
'if any man ventured to defeat the regulations laid down for the 
Colonies, by a slackness in the execution, he would look upon him 
as a criminal and the betrayer of his country'. 1 The Declaration 
Act itself which accompanied the repeal, stated that Parliament 
'had, hath, and of right ought to have, full power and authority to 
make laws ... in all cases whatsoever'. When Townshend, there- 
fore, again advanced to the attack by the duties of 1767, the least 
suspicious of colonists could scarcely ignore their import. In order 
to observe the American distinction between internal and external 
taxation the duties were laid at the American ports, but the object 
was unmistakable 'a more certain and adequate provision for 
defraying the charge of the administration of justice and the sup- 
port of civil government*. Accompanying the Revenue Act of 1767 
came resident commissioners of customs for America and the 
suspension of the New York Assembly until it should comply with 
the Quartering Act by supplying certain provisions to the standing 
army in New York. 'How is this mode', asked John Dickinson in 
the first of his Farmer's Letters, 'more tolerable than the Stamp 
Act?' 2 Indeed the design is bluntly stated by William Knox him- 
self. The system of port duties, he wrote in 1789, was 'expressly 
appropriated to defray the expence of their Civil government' ; and 
it was so far from proceeding 'by sap, as the stamp duties would 

1 Grenville Correspondence, iii. 216. 

2 Morison, Documents on The American Revolution, p. 36. 


have done, that it was attacking them by storm in open day ; every 
man therefore saw into the design'. 1 

When the duties on glass, lead, colours, and paper were removed, 
the duty on tea remained : what was the colonist to make of Hills- 
borough's * Canonical book of ministerial scripture', as Burke called 
it 'the general epistle to the Americans' the circular letter in 
which the minister in the name of the Crown renounced 'any 
further taxes upon America, for the purpose of Raising a Revenue' ? 
In the Tetters of Washington it is possible to follow the perplexities 
which British policy thus forced upon a resolute mind until sus- 
picion became at last a settled conviction. As late as 1774 Washing- 
ton, in the most solemn language, wrote from the first Conti- 
nental Congress at Philadelphia that 'it is not the wish or interest 
of that government (Massachusetts), or any other upon this conti- 
nent, separately or collectively, to set up for independence'. 2 But 
though long 'unsuspicious of design', Washington was now 'con- 
vinced beyond the smallest doubt, that these measures are the 
result of deliberation', and that there had been 'a regular systematic 
plan formed to enforce them'. 'Government is pursuing a regular 
plan at the expense of law and justice to overthrow our constitu- 
tional rights and liberties.' 3 It is surely one of the ironies of history 
that much of the systematic tyranny at this stage was a desperate 
attempt of a blundering ministry to save its own precious dignity. 

1 'For every man was able to satisfy himself, that if the civil expences of the 
Colony were defrayed by duties imposed by Parliament, and all the officers 
paid out of it and appointed by the Crown, their Sun of independence would be 
much longer a rising than they wished or hoped for.' Extra Official State Papers, 
ii. 27. 

Knox's whole theory, written of course 'after the event', was the character- 
istic Tory doctrine that the colonists had independence in view from the first ; 
though in reality when Knox claims to have observed 'a general disposition to 
independence of this country' it is clear that it is the same type of 'independence' 
which he finds 'in the first plantation in every one of them', and that it arose 
through 'a total want of plan or system'. (Extra Official State Papers, ii. u.) 
What Knox seems to have had in mind was not sovereign political indepen- 
dence and separation from Great Britain but the dependence of officials upon the 
local Assemblies: a vastly different thing which has been regarded throughout 
this essay as a very natural and indeed inevitable process. 

1 'This I advance with a degree of confidence and boldness, which may claim 
your belief, having better opportunities of knowing the real sentiments of the 
people you are among, from the leaders of them, in opposition to the measures 
of the administration, than you have.' Washington to Capt. Robert Mackenzie, 
Philadelphia, Oct. 9, 1774. Washington's Writings, ed. Sparks, ii. 401. In 
Washington's Diary for Sept. 28, is the entry: 'spent the afternoon with the 
Boston gentlemen.' Ibid. 

3 Washington to Bryan Fairfax, id., ii. 398; id., ii. 392. 


Thus events moved on to a crisis which Burke in 1774, and 

posterity after him, could not contemplate without despair : 

'If intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and poison the 
very source of government, by urging subtle deductions, and conse- 
quences odious to those you govern, from the unlimited and illimit- 
able nature of supreme sovereignty, you will teach them by these 
means to call that sovereignty itself in question. . . . If that sovereignty 
and their freedom cannot be reconciled, which will they take? They 
will cast your sovereignty in your face. Nobody will be argued into 

. . . Your scheme yields no revenue . . . and such is the state of 
America, that after wading up to your eyes in blood, you could only 
end just where you begun ; that is, to tax where no revenue is to be 
found, to my voice fails me; my inclination indeed carries me no 
further all is confusion beyond it.' 



The consequences which followed the breakdown of mutual confi- 
dence lie beyond the scope of this essay, but the reflections which 
occur to a Canadian a century and a half after the catastrophe are 
apt to differ from those which have been traditional either in 
Great Britain or in the United States. Both countries, perhaps, 
have come to regard the American Revolution with a measure of 
fatalism: the one with resolute acquiescence in the inevitable, 
the other in a more exultant spirit of unquestioning vindication. 
Viewing in Canada the results of the conflict at closer range, and 
contemplating also as an accomplished fact what may be regarded 
as a truly British solution to the old 'American question* in the 
achievement of * responsible government', it is not so easy to 
aspire to either form of equanimity. In such a context the in- 
evitableness of revolution is less obvious ; perhaps because it seems 
belied by the inevitableness of the evolution which saved the 
second Empire and was already so far advanced in the first when 
the springs of mutual confidence were recklessly poisoned. 

In truth the similarity of organic growth between the first Em- 
pire and the second is borne in upon one at every point. Not only 
are the local problems the same but with the exception of Nova 
Scotia the process of colonial government begins again almost de 
novo ; and if the second Empire, like the first, came to the brink of 
disaster it was not because it had not a fair chance. Nor was it 


because there was *a total want of plan or system' as Knox had 
urged in extenuation of the earlier catastrophe. 1 Knox himself, 
who had no small share in starting that second Empire on its way, 
could scarcely have desired material more to his liking. Quebec, 
which alone among the provinces of the first Empire seems to have 
commanded his unqualified approval ,* had no Assembly whatever 
until 'the zealots for universal liberty', as Knox wrote upon the eve 
of the Constitutional Act, 'come with their fine spun theories, for 
promoting the happiness of the French Canadians, by converting 
them into English Republicans'. 3 The Nova Scotia Assembly, it 
is true, continued the New England traditions, but neither there 
nor in Upper Canada and New Brunswick and Prince Edward 
Island was a basis of mutual confidence in the British connexion 
ever wanting. With the loyalist migrations a fair trial for another 
regime of the old colonial system was doubly assured. 

All the approved specifics for making the officials of government 
'independent of the factious will and caprice of an assembly* are 
tried again. The same catchwords of 'due subordination' and 'the 
rights and liberties of British subjects' appear on either side. The 
same bitter struggle ensues, a struggle wholly indigenous to 
Canadian soil but complicated by false analogies drawn from the 
results of the earlier conflict. Within fifty years the same malignant 
disease had run its course. Fortunately there was no recourse to 
surgery, though the poisoning of mutual confidence threatened 
the same dissolution. Governor Bernard never vilified his political 
opponents in Massachusetts more heartily than Sir Francis Head 
berated the 'republicans' of Upper Canada. Before the struggle 
was over, men as staunchly British as Robert Baldwin and Joseph 
Howe had become very nearly as desperate as Washington in 1774. 
Baldwin solemnly warned Lord Durham in 1838 that without 
responsible government 'England will continue to retain these 
Colonies by means of her troops alone'. 4 Howe advised Charles 
Buller as late as 1846 that if men like those who 'drove the 
old Colonies to separation' had their way, the problem would be 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. u. 

2 'It might be expected that in those which are denominated Royal Govern- 
ments, something more than the powers of paper and parchment would have been 
employed to render them useful, and retain them in subordination to Great 
Britain. But there is really no material difference between any of them, (except 
Quebec) and the others.' Id. y ii. 20. 

3 Id., ii. 6. 

4 Baldwin to Durham, Aug. 23, 1838, Calendar of the Durham Papers^ ed. 
William Smith, Pub. Arch. Can., 1023, p. 326. 


'discussed in a different spirit, ten years hence, by the Enemies of 
England, not by her friends'. 1 Happily the friends* on both sides 
of the Atlantic prevailed ; and though the old colonial system re- 
mained much the same, it was the happier lot of the second 
Empire to deal with men who were vastly different. 


From the vantage ground of responsible government, therefore, 
one is impressed not merely with the difficulties but with the 
elements of promise in the first Empire. It was the fact that the 
colonies were already so far upon the way to self-government which 
made them doubly jealous of it; and in the end they 'made their 
stand', to repeat the oft-quoted words of Moses Coit Tyler, 'not 
against tyranny inflicted, but only against tyranny anticipated'. 
Thus Beer has recorded the opinion that revolution 'might not 
have followed had the British government, after 1763, been 
willing to relax still further the political ties, and to allow the 
colonies in bulk to assume the virtually complete powers of self- 
government that Rhode Island and Connecticut enjoyed'. 2 Is it 
true that this was impossible ? 

Whatever answer to that question came from the one side of the 
Atlantic, the tendencies already outlined seem conclusive for the 
other. The achievement of political power by the Assembly was 
not a subversive but a natural process; and it was as nearly in- 
evitable as any process in government. Who could have been 
ignorant in 1765 that this was one of the cardinal facts of British 
history ? In America the same truth was written in the journals 
of every Assembly. It continued in a score of British provinces 
after the Revolution until the control of local administration was 
finally achieved. British Dominions have survived to encounter 
the same tendencies in the government of their own subordinate 
territories. 'It is the genius of the English race in both hemi- 
spheres', exclaimed Baldwin, 'to be concerned in the Government 
of themselves'. 3 

How near were the American provinces to self-government ? No 
British province in 1836 wielded the power over local administra- 
tion that the average colony exercised in 1763. Their method, it 
is true, was not ours; nor was this power unaccompanied by fric- 

1 Howe to Duller, Oct. 28, 1846, Howe Papers, vi. 80. Pub. Arch. Can. 

3 Op. cil., p. 313. 

3 Calendar of the Durham Papers, Pub. Arch. Can., 1923, p. 328. 


tion and anomalies. Even before Grenville with his 'stout and 
resolute heart' took the helm, it is impossible, as Professor Egerton 
has shown so convincingly, to say that all was well in the best of 
all possible worlds. The ceaseless friction must have irritated un- 
speakably a mind like Lord Halifax's, attuned to system and tan- 
gible results. But there had been considerable friction in Great 
Britain in disposing of the Stuarts. Perhaps there was more hope- 
less friction and less compromise in Lower Canada in 1838 than 
in any province of the old Empire. Nor did it cease with re- 
sponsible government. It ceased to fill the ears of the Colonial 
Secretary merely because it was left to work itself out, as all repre- 
sentative government on the British analogy must work itself out, 
in the provinces themselves. Good government is not synonymous 
with self-government, but as Campbell-Bannerman so wisely said, 
it can never be a satisfactory substitute. 

If nothing but force, then, could have stopped this process, was 
the temper of Britain such in 1770 that the use of force was in- 
evitable ? Had Grenville and Townshcnd been vouchsafed a vision 
of the results of their desperate experiment in constructive im- 
perialism, would they still, as a Whig pamphleteer in America ex- 
pressed it, have 'hardened their hearts like unto Pharaoh' ? Could 
the wells, poisoned by false dignity on the one side, and suspicion 
much of it ill-founded on the other, have yet been purified and 
sweetened by a touch of statesmanship, a flash of historical 
imagination ? 

The answer to these questions, to be sure, was not to be found 
in America. The outlook in Britain has been painted by those who 
speak with authority; and it must have been black indeed. When 
Burke and Knox can agree, there must be little room for disagree- 
ment. Perhaps the most desperate outlook was the temper of the 
British public. What had the colonist to hope if no virtue was to 
be found here? During the momentous elections of 1768 when 
Knox professed to see 'a spirit rising in this country', Franklin 
found the 'whole venal nation is now at market, will be sold for 
about two millions, and might be bought ... by the very devil 
himself. But this did not prevent Knox from interpreting the 
election ex cathedra to the colonies in America : 

*Do not flatter yourself, that she is yet so despicable as to be terrified 
by your threats, or so ignorant of your affairs, as to imagine you can 
carry them into execution. There is a spirit rising in this country, 
which will make you to know its strength and your own weakness, 


that will convince you of its authority and of your dependence. . . . 
If you do not avail yourselves of the information I have given you, 
perhaps the people of England may be led by it to conceive more justly 
of their Rights, and of your Intentions, than they have hitherto done; 
and may compel you to submit, if they unhappily find no argument, 
but force can induce you to obey. It is time indeed for my countrymen 
to bestir themselves, and to vindicate the honour of the state/ * 

Such desperate wickedness as this flourishing in high places was 
enough, as James Otis had said, to 'make the wisest mad and the 
weakest strong'. 2 But the people of England remained apathetic. 
As late as 1774 Burke wrote that the public was 'perfectly careless 
and supine'. 'Any remarkable highway robbery at Hounslow 
Heath would make more conversation than all the disturbances of 
America.' 3 They might be stirred to escape i s. of land tax in the 
by taxing America; and they still talked, with an air of joint 
sovereignty, as Franklin found, of 'our subjects in the colonies'. But 
in the end the ministry had to resort to Catherine the Great of 
Russia and Hessian troops to implement the programme of William 
Knox. In truth, this apathy, however hopeless, indicated no 
rooted determination to subjugate the colonies ; and indeed the 
Stamp Act passed the House itself almost unnoted, except for the 
inflexible determination of George Grenville. We have seen that 
Townshend's measure in 1767, despite Burke 's description of that 
fine-spun scheme of 'exquisite policy', was much more than a 
device on the part of the darling of the House to win its applause. 
The applause of the House nevertheless was won, and won easily ; 
and it was as easily lost. The sequel went far to justify the lan- 
guage of Burke : 

'What woeful variety of schemes have been adopted ; what enforcing, 
and what repealing; what bullying, and what submitting ; what doing, 
and undoing ; what straining and what relaxing ; what assemblies dis- 
solved for not obeying, and called again without obedience; what 
troops sent out to quell resistance, and on meeting with resistance, 
recalled; what shiftings, and changes, and jumblings of all kinds of 
men at home, which left no possibility of order, consistency, vigour, 
or even so much as a decent unity of colour in any one public 
measure.' 4 

1 The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies Reviewed, London, 
1769, pp. 204-5. 

* Rights of the British Colonies Asserted and Proved. 

3 Burke to Rockingham, Feb. 2 and Dec. 5, 1774. Letters, ed. Laski, pp. 
179, 189. 

* Speech on American Taxation. 


This is not the manner of inexorable tyranny; and thus one 
is led to attach more and more importance to that ill-fated project 
of imperialization which 'ran counter to the tendency towards 
autonomy'. 1 Had Grenville and Townshend held their hand the 
problem assuredly would not ipso facto have been solved. But at 
least its solution would not have been made for ever impossible. 
Nor would the problem have been solved had Burke 's tentative 
plan of conciliation been immediately adopted. But the first step 
would Have been taken and, as it happens, that particular process 
usually requires but one step at a time. 


Was it then, to quote the ruthless verdict of Professor Egerton, 
'because the men of the eighteenth century were puffed up with 
a stupid pride and ignorance which forbade their realizing the 
possibilities of the future, however remote, that the first English 
Empire . . . came to an unhonoured and irreparable end'? Was 
revolution inevitable because British ministers were, like George 
Grenville, 'altogether lacking in that quality which is the touch- 
stone of great statesmanship , the quality of historical imagination' ? 2 

It is a hard saying and it is not easy to subscribe to it without 
qualification. None but an archangel, assuredly, could have fore- 
seen the British Commonwealth of to-day. None but Franklin 
seems to have approached such a vision. But lack of imagination 
is an infirmity which may reveal itself in two very different ways. 
Both have much to answer for, but it will be conceded that they 
are not of equal malignancy. 

Sins of omission are as a rule venial and remediable. With few 
exceptions statesmen of the eighteenth century were denied 
prophetic insight into the potentialities of colonial conditions and 
character. Until the very eve of the Revolution Britain was more 
intent upon winning an American empire than upon understand- 
ing it. The absence of system was not unnatural, and there were 
many compensations. Colonial growth was organic. Its diversity 
was at once the inspiration and the result of natural aptitudes. 
Like Topsy the average colony 'just growed'. There was no 
'empire' in a literal sense, but there was never wanting a certain 
practical empiricism, a 'day to day opportunism' which Sir Charles 
Lucas has called 'the highest genius of the race'. 3 

1 Beer, op. cit., p. 287. a American Revolution, pp. 200, 70. 

3 Greater Rome and Greater Britain. 


But there is a lack of imagination which belongs to another cate- 
gory : that of Clarendon who thought the absolutism of Charles I 
could have been 'covered under a bushel 5 at the time of the Grand 
Remonstrance ; or that of a Wentworth to whose masterful spirit 
Charles Ts fatal policy was 'well laid but miserably lost in the 
execution'. No policy of 'thorough* ever had a slighter chance of 
success than Grenville's in America. Resistance came not because 
the colonists were Americans but because they were British. 
Could any autocrat have hoped for success in America who had 
not begun by belying the instincts of Britons in Great Britain? 
The lack of imagination here is the failure to understand the spirit 
of a free people, a people who believed themselves substantially 
free and discovered that they were not. The political virtues which 
may accompany such statesmanship may be as exemplary as those 
which Burke conceded to Grenville: fearless self-confidence, a 
genius for responsibility, an imperviousness to criticism, and the 
loftiest motives in the world for 'saving the Empire'. But in the 
last analysis is there any refinement of constructive statesmanship 
which can take the place of simple confidence among men confi- 
dence, like peace, to be 'sought in its natural course and in its 
ordinary haunts'? 

Thus while Chatham pleaded for 'mutual confidence' 'some- 
thing to trust to' and Burke implored the nation to restore at any 
cost 'the former unsuspecting confidence of the colonies in the Mother 
Country', the government, always ready to do too late what might 
have saved the day had it been done in time, passed from one paltry 
subterfuge to another, in retreat upon what was deemed to be its 
last line of defence, the defence of its own dignity. Meanwhile 
suspicion spread like the plague, the deadliest of all political 
maladies because it throve not upon facts but upon itself. In that 
sense the period from the Sugar Bill to the Declaration of Inde- 
pendence is the Black Death of colonial history. In such an atmo- 
sphere even Paine 's Common Sense seemed a breath of fresh air. 
'The fate of Charles the First', he cried, 'hath only made kings 
more subtle not more just'. 1 The time came when Knox himself, 
in his Project of a permanent Union and Settlement with the Colonies, 
conceded that 'state chicane or lawyers craft will not do with the 

1 Common Sense, Philadelphia, February, 1776, reprinted London, 1776, 2nd 
edition, p. 6. 

In America alone over 120,000 copies of this pamphlet were sold within three 
months. Egerton, American Revolution , p. 195. 


Colonies, they have lost all confidence in the integrity of Parlia- 
ment, and until confidence is restored, treaty is impossible. Par- 
liament must therefore endeavour to beget confidence by putting 
it out of its own power to deceive/ 1 

And thus 'reinvigorated officialdom' in person proclaimed its 
own bankruptcy. 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii., Appendix xi. 




WITH the final cession of Acadie to the British Crown by the 
Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Nova Scotia became an integral part 
of 'the American empire*. By the same treaty the British 'claims to 
the Hudson's Bay territories, pursuant to the Charter of 1670, 
were also finally confirmed. This monopolistic proprietary 'plan- 
tation' of Charles II, however, bore little resemblance to the 
thriving proprietary provinces of Maryland and Pennsylvania. 
The oldest continuously British territory on the continent of 
North America slumbered peacefully through the American Revo- 
lution in the swaddling charter of the Hudson's Bay Company. 

It was at first proposed to annex Nova Scotia to Massachusetts. 
Every argument of conquest and of provincial rights seemed to 
warrant that expectation. More than three-quarters of Colonel 
Nicholson's force against Port Royal in 1710 had been colonial 
militiamen ; and Massachusetts had contributed half as many again 
as all the other colonies together. Of the garrison which remained 
under Colonel Samuel Vetch of Boston until the signing of the 
peace, more than half were colonial volunteers. 1 Annexation to 
Massachusetts, in fact, had already been implied in the charter of 
William and Mary to that province. Stanhope himself, the Secre- 
tary of State, conceded that 'it would be a violation of the very 
words of that Charter to erect a new Government there'. Rivalry in 
trade and the fisheries, moreover, would render the two provinces 
'very ill friends ; tho' very near neighbours' ; whereas the Governor 
of Massachusetts if entrusted with the government of Nova Scotia 
would be 'more independent, and much better able to serve the 
Crown that he is at present, while he draws all his subsistance from 
the people and has nothing but his Commission from the King'. 2 

The sequel for Canadian history had the boundaries of Massa- 
chusetts been extended to the Gulf of St. Lawrence would defy 
calculation; but the British Government decided otherwise. A 
separate 'royal* province was established upon the model of Vir- 

1 Osgood, American Colonies in the i8th Century, i. 436 ff. 

2 Stanhope, to Council of Trade, May 15, 1715, Nova Scotia, A. Series, 6. 
199. (Transcripts of C.O. 217, Public Record Office) Pub. Arch. Can. 


ginia. The first Commission and Instructions to Colonel Philipps 
were not 'so extensive as those for His Majesty's other Governors 
in America', since both the fisheries and the fur trade were 
seasonal, and the settled white population remained almost ex- 
clusively French. The instructions with regard to the laws of 
trade and navigation were 'in the usual form', though the promi- 
nence of timber and naval stores the boundless reserves of which 
were placed under the direct supervision of the continental Sur- 
veyor-General of Woods pointed to 'defence' rather than 'opu- 
lence' as a dominant motive in organizing the new province. The 
choice of Virginia as the prototype was designed, moreover, to 
strengthen the hands of the Crown in the contest with the 'pro- 
prietary' and 'chartered' provinces. The Instructions to the 
Governor of Virginia were supplied to Governor Philipps for use 
in 'cases that may happen . . . till His Majesty's further pleasure 
shall be known'. 1 

The early government of the new province was necessarily 
primitive. The permanent white population, almost exclusively 
Acadian French, was estimated by Nicholson at 2,500, of whom 
1,290 were in the vicinity of Annapolis and Minas Basin. Ten 
years later Philipps reported the trade and fisheries to be Entirely 
hitherto in favour of Boston' an excellent illustration of the pre- 
vailing tendencies in eighteenth-century mercantilism. Cured fish 
from Nova Scotia already found its way 'to all the markets of 
Portugal, the Mediterranean and West Indies'. Furs to the value 
of 10,000 were traded for 'West India Commodityes, and Pro- 
vissions of New England and some European goods', at a profit of 
four or five hundred per cent., 'without paying the least duty or 
impost towards the support of this Government'. There was 'a very 
good coal mine, which the people of Boston fetch at their pleasure'. 
Meanwhile Philipps had difficulty in assembling twelve councillors 
for the nominal administration of the province. 'This has been 
hitherto', he wrote from Annapolis, 'no more than a Mock Govern- 
ment Its authority haveing never yet extended beyond cannon 
reach of this Fort'. z 

1 Council of Trade to Lords Justices, June 19, 1719. Id., 10. 128. 

z Philipps to Lords of Trade, Aug. 6, Sept. 26 and 27, 1720. Id., i. i86ff.; 
12. 91 ff., &c. The Council included Capt. Doucett, Major Armstrong, after- 
wards Lieut. -Governor, Paul Mascarene * Chief Engineer and a Person of great 
prudence and Capacity*, the Chaplain of the Garrison, a surveyor, the Collector 
of Customs, two merchants, a surgeon, and the son of an eminent merchant of 
Boston. Id., ii. 1 08. 

34'3 I 


The ultimate form of government, however, was never in 
question, though the contest between the 'chartered' and 'royal' 
types was by no means over. By 1725 the settlements at Canso, 
the head-quarters of the New England fishing fleets, had so far 
altered the political conditions of the province that Lieut. -Governor 
Armstrong sought directions from the Duke of Newcastle 'for 
constituting an Assembly . . . the People so much desiring it'. 1 To 
Alured Popple, Secretary of the Board of Trade, Armstrong added 
that an Assembly was particularly necessary for the New, England 
settlers, 'otherways the best man on Earth cannot manage and 
govern them*. To Newcastle himself, two years later, Armstrong 
reported the activities of 'some Boston antimonarchical traders 5 . 2 
In 1727, however, the Board of Trade drew up a formal report 
upon the civil government of the province. The governor was 
'to declare in His Majesty's Name by Proclamation or other- 
wise, that such persons as shall settle in Nova Scotia shall be 
entitled to all the like Privileges, Liberties and advantages which 
are at present enjoy'd by the rest of His Majesty's Subjects in His 
other American Colonies and particularly to that of an Assembly, 
as soon as their circumstances will admit of it'. 3 These pledges, -as 
we shall see, were duly redeemed in Nova Scotia. The Board 
itself was the first to see that no British settlement on a large scale 
was possible without a prospect of enjoying 'a Civil Government 
there' such as Britons in America everywhere took for granted; 
and conversely British institutions could be expected to function 
only when 'there are English enough to compose an Assembly'. 4 


Twenty years passed before systematic British settlement was 
begun, and more than thirty before an Assembly brought the 
province into conformity with the usual type of 'royal' government 
in America. The schemes of settlement and of government pro- 
jected during this period must have exhausted the range of colonial 
precedent. Governor Richard Philipps returned to Nova Scotia 
in 1729 with new Commission and Instructions, directed, it would 
seem, to a new policy. In truth the wealth of the fisheries alone 
must have commanded the attention of the Board. As early as 

1 'Which will not only add to the authority of the Government but in a little 
time very much lessen the Public Charge.' Sept. 5, 1725. A. Series, 16. 128. 
1 Id., 16. 162-3; J 7- IQ 2 ff. 

' Lords of Trade to the Privy Council, June 7, 1727. /</., 18. 122 ff. 
* Lords of Trade to Armstrong, Sept. 18, 1735. Id. y 33. 160. 


1722 these had been reported to be 'the best in His Majesty's do- 
minions'. Philipps found at Canso no fewer than 250 vessels with 
some 2,000 men engaged in the fisheries. The industry, he wrote 
to Newcastle, contributed from 30,000 to 40,000 per year to the 
revenues of Great Britain more than any other province in 
America except Virginia. 1 The new seal of the province bore the 
appropriate motto 'Terrae Marisque Opes'. 

But projects of settlement at least six are on record during this 
period- 1 - yielded very meagre results. It was decided in 1729 to 
extend the boundaries of the province westward to the Kennebec 
River, upon the basis of 'the ancient limits' as surrendered by the 
French in 1713. The district between the Kennebec and the St. 
Croix was to be named * Georgia'; and David Dunbar, whose 
stormy career as Surveyor of Woods and Lieut.-Governor of New 
Hampshire brought him into constant conflict with Governor 
Belcher of Massachusetts, was authorized by Order in Council to 
settle it with Protestant settlers from Ireland and German settlers 
from the Palatinate. 2 But in 1732 the law officers of the Crown 
upheld the claims of Massachusetts to the whole area in dispute, 
and even the name of Dunbar's settlement was appropriated for 
the new province in South Carolina. 3 The wealthiest of the 
'Palatinates' were induced by 'the intrigues of Boston', Philipps 
complained to settle in the south. And thus the two provinces, 
as Stanhope had predicted, became Very ill friends ; tho' very near 

A few years later a still more pretentious scheme found favour 
with the Board of Trade. In 1736 Thomas Coram, an influential 
merchant of London, proposed a government for Nova Scotia 
upon the model of the new province of Georgia, but with pro- 
vision for self-government at the earliest stages of adequate settle- 
ment. Trustees were to be incorporated for twenty-one years. 
The councillors, instead of being appointed by the trustees or the 
governor, were to be elected annually by the Assembly, though 
the deputy-governor was to have an 'absolute negative upon each 
of them'. At the end of twenty-one years the trustees were to 
surrender their charter, and the government of the province was 
to 'return entirely to the Crown ... as in New York or any other 
plantation immediately under His Majesty's protection'. The 

1 Oct. 2, 1729, Sept. 2, 1730 ; America and West Indies t 29. 165 ; 30. n, &c. 
1 Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 33. 158, 227, &c. 
3 Osgood, op. cit. t iii. 329-330. 


Board commended the project and agreed that the settlement of 
Nova Scotia was 'of very great consequence to His Majesty's 
interests in America, and to the interests of this kingdom'; but 
Coram's scheme came to nothing, and it seems clear, from a 
memorandum of 1741, that the Board still retained its decided 
preference for a * royal' government 'in the same manner and form 
as His Majesty's other Plantations in America'. 1 

In truth the growing insecurity of British interests between a 
French and Indian population within the province and tjie direct 
menace of French power from Louisbourg must have jeopardized 
settlement under any auspices. 'No more striking proof exists of 
the neglect of colonial interests', says Osgood, 'than is afforded by 
the history of Nova Scotia for nearly forty years after the Treaty 
of Utrecht'. 2 Project after project for French protestants, for 
Irish settlers in the Chignecto peninsula, for Protestant settlers 
from Germany came to grief. Philipps himself left the province 
to deputies after 1731, and Armstrong died by his own hand in 
1739. Mascarene, who returned from Boston to take over the 
administration in the following year, reported that there were 
scarcely half a dozen British families left exclusive of the garrisons 
at Annapolis and Canso. Depredations upon the New England 
fishing fleets and finally open war with France brought the fortunes 
of the province to the lowest ebb. Canso itself was taken in 1744 
by a French force from Louisbourg. Gallant old Mascarene beat 
off attack after attack upon Annapolis, but it was clear that the 
cause of British settlement and of stable government alike in Nova 
Scotia was not to be made good without an appeal to the fortunes 
of war. 



The lean years of military occupation closed with a project of more 
than passing interest, for it was th work of the greatest colonial 
governor of his time, and it was one of the most cherished projects 
of his career. Indirectly, at least, it proved to be the turning- 
point in the history of Nova Scotia. 

William Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts, was too magnani- 
mous to share the narrow provincial jealousies which had em- 
bittered the relations between the two provinces. It was Shirley's 
conviction that 'Nova Scotia was the key to British interests and 

r A. Series, 33. 160; 25. 105. 2 Op. at., iii. 512. 


dominion in America'; that it was 'the key of all the Eastern 
Colonies upon the Northern Continent'. It had 'more safe and 
commodious harbours . . . than the same extent of Sea coast in 
any part of the world*. Its loss would be fatal to the whole area 
of 'the King's woods whence the Royal Navy is almost wholly 
supply 'd with masts yards and bowsprits', and fatal to the 'Cod 
fishery' from New England to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In the 
end its loss would jeopardize the naval control of the North 
Atlantic. These convictions Shirley affirmed in season and out of 
season to his own General Court in Massachusetts, to the Duke 
of Bedford, to Newcastle, to the Admiralty, to Sir Thomas Robin- 
son, to Benning Wentworth of New Hampshire and other gover- 
nors of the nothern provinces, and finally, in his own defence, to 
the Crown itself. 1 To Shirley the meagre garrison of British 
settlers in Nova Scotia came to look as their champion and pro- 
tector. In war he was their defender. With the advent of peace 
his name must be associated with that of Halifax in the final 
establishment of Nova Scotia as a British province. 

More than once during the war Shirley had saved Annapolis by 
dispatching timely supplies and reinforcements from Boston. His 
old friend Mascarene 'did Nothing of Moment', Shirley after- 
wards remarked, 'without either my Directions, Approbation, or 
Advice, transmitting even his Correspondence with his Majesty's 
Ministers thro' my hands'. 2 In that field, says Osgood, he was 'the 
most alert and the best informed man in New England'. Pledging 
the General Court of Massachusetts to secrecy, he launched the 
project for the capture of Louisbourg, and became 'the moving 
spirit' of that most successful colonial enterprise of the war. More 
than three-quarters of Pepperrell's force 4,300 in all were men 
of that province. From Louisbourg itself (October 29, 1745) 
Shirley wrote to Newcastle of the future government and settle- 
ment of the province; two years later he claimed Newcastle's 
promise 'that his Majesty design 'd to bestow on me the Govern- 
ment of Nova Scotia, to hold with that of the Massachusetts Bay'. 
Shirley was among the first to urge the fortification of Chebucto, 
afterwards Halifax, and a settlement there to be drawn from the 
hardy stock of New England. And finally it was 'in Obedience to 
his Majesty's Commands' (October 3, 1747) through Newcastle 

1 Osgood, op. cit., iii. 574; Correspondence of William Shirley, ed. Lincoln, 
ii. 148 if. ; i. 346 ff., 470 ff., 499 ff. ; ii. 592 ff., &c. 
J Shirley to Newcastle, Mar. 28, 1750. Id., i. 499. 


himself that Shirley drew up his 'Plan of a Civil Government for 
the Province of Nova Scotia, to be laid before his Majesty for his 
Royal Consideration'. 1 

The immediate sequel might well have daunted a temper less 
serene and tenacious than Shirley's, for he was not to become 
Governor of Nova Scotia, and his Plan of a Civil Government, 
based upon the Charter of his own province, was finally passed 
over in favour of an orthodox 'royal* government. Deeper than 
either disappointment must have been his chagrin wheft Louis- 
bourg, the prize won by New England blood and treasure, was 
returned to France in exchange for Madras at the Treaty of Aix-la- 
Chapelle in 1748. Fortunately, in the end, the cause which Shirley 
had at heart for Nova Scotia was upon the whole not seriously 
impaired by these accumulated calamities, for his chief project was 
nothing less than the systematic settlement of the province to 
ensure a decided British ascendancy. He had preferred the 'char- 
tered' government of Massachusetts because 'a near conformity of 
the Civil Government of Nova Scotia to that of this Province, may 
be a great advantage to the former for attracting New England 
Settlers to live there '.^ In two exhaustive letters to Bedford, 
Secretary of State, accompanied by plans and memoranda of sites 
and estimates, Shirley proposed to settle 6,000 families in Nova 
Scotia within ten years. Of these 2,000 were to be drawn from the 
northern colonies at a cost of 48,900, 2,000 from Europe at a 
cost of 78,900, and 2,000 disbanded troops at the close of the 
war. Thus was a British ascendancy to be established, the fishery 
to be secured and developed, and the cost of the whole to be de- 
frayed in a few years by the increase of traded Such indeed 
proved to be the ingredients of British settlement in Nova Scotia 
upon the eve of the American Revolution . 


The first systematic British settlement in Nova Scotia took place 
under the able administration of Lord Halifax at the Board of 
Trade, and the new capital of the province bore his name. More 
than 1,400 British settlers, originally intended for the Annapolis 
district, reached Halifax in 1749, followed by a smaller party which 
founded Dartmouth on the other side of the harbour in 1750. A 

1 Shirley to Newcastle, Mar. 28, 1750, Shirley Correspondence, i. 500, 470. 
1 Shirley to Bedford, Feb. 27, 1748, iW., i. 470; Nova Scotia, A.lSeries, 33. i77ff. 
3 America and West Indies, 63. 102 if., 108 ff., &c. 


second type, chiefly German protestants, began to arrive in 1751, 
and finally, in 1753, peopled the southern districts of Lunenburg 
County. Their struggle from destitution to prosperity is a remark- 
able chapter of stolid thrift, though it complicated rather than 
simplified the immediate problems of civil government. Neither 
of these migrations, in fact, proved to be a dominant factor in the 
political development of the province. Halifax grew rapidly by 
the arrival of Useful men from New England', but Cornwallis, 
who had come out as governor with the expedition of 1749, was 
not favourably impressed with the original personnel. The dis- 
charged soldier was seldom a resourceful pioneer, and there were 
but too many of 'the King's bad bargains'. 

The Halifax settlement, however, was intended to be but c part 
of a great plan'. Shirley, who was now in England, reported that 
'when the Supply for the Maintenance of Nova Scotia came on in 
the House of Commons ... it was not only unanimously voted, 
but with the most visible Satisfaction on the Countenance of every 
Member that was ever known there upon any such occasion, most 
explicit strong declarations were made by the Minister in favour 
of its Support and of the Importance of it to the Nation'. 1 The 
Board of Trade, like Shirley himself, had now come to rely upon 
the New England settler to 'add strength' and cohesion to less 
resourceful elements of colonization. 2 Even Colonel LaXvrence, 
who could scarcely be charged with a taste for civil as distinct from 
military traditions of government, was known to express a down- 
right preference for the pioneer settler ready-made in the rugged 
school of New England. * 

This was the personnel of settlement in the province when the 
whole basic problem with which Shirley and every administrator 
in Nova Scotia had been struggling for fifteen years was trans- 
formed by the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. Neither the idyll 
which tradition has woven about the Acadians in Nova Scotia nor 
the tragedy of their exile was primarily a matter of government, 
though it is on record that Lieut.-Governor Armstrong had pro- 
posed an Assembly in 1732 with the French Acadians represented 
in order to 'secure obedience to their own Acts'.s The problem of 

1 Shirley to Josiah Willard, Apr. 27, 1753, Shirley Correspondence , ii. 10. 
Shirley was one of the commissioners for the adjustment of the boundaries 
between Nova Scotia and New France. See Osgood, op. cit., iii. 574, &c. 

1 Lords of Trade to Cornwallis, Oct. 16, 1749, Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 
34. 163 ff. ; Lords of Trade to Bedford, Mar. 9, 1750, id., 206 ff. 

3 Armstrong to Newcastle, Nov. 15, 1732, America and West Indies, 30. 29. 


'the neutral French', however, had complicated the security of 
British interests in Nova Scotia at every point; and to Shirley, as 
we have seen, that security was the key not only to 'the King's 
Woods' and the fishery but to the safety of New England and the 
control of the North Atlantic. Thus the two specifics unceasingly 
advocated to this end by Shirley and his school were nothing less 
than basic strategy in the impending struggle for a continent. One 
was to take Louisbourg and to hold Nova Scotia in force as the key 
to the whole Atlantic seaboard. The other, as we have seen, was 
to fill the rich lands on the frontiers with 6,000 British settlers 
under a form of government capable of 'attracting New England 
Settlers to live there'. 

Had both or perhaps either of these projects been carried 
out in time, it is conceivable that the attitude of the Acadians might 
never have invited disaster. The correspondence of old Mascarene 
with his courtly French manners and humane concern for 'the 
perilous situation' of the Acadians bears witness that even during 
the perils of open war they were not incapable of responding to 
generosity. 1 But the return of Louisbourg to France in 1748, the 
weakness of the British occupation in Nova Scotia, the sparsity of 
British settlement, the desperately unscrupulous intrigues of the 
French agents, the vicissitudes of colonial warfare already over- 
shadowed by signs of a final struggle for colonial power in America, 
left all the elements of tragedy at large in the land. Shirley himself, 
in default of vigorous action by the British Government or an 
unequivocal oath of allegiance by the Acadians, was prepared to 
deal summarily with the intrigues from Louisbourg and Quebec, 
and to transport the most troublesome of the French population 
from the frontiers to less exposed locations at Annapolis. 2 But by 
1755 the year of Braddock's defeat the beginnings of the Seven 
Years' War were already smouldering from Beausejour to Fort 
Duquesne. Lieut.-Governor Lawrence 3 and his Council decided 
to cut the Gordian knot, and the Acadian exiles were scattered 

1 Mascarene to Shirley, July 28, 1744, British Museum, add. 19071, 516; to 
Lords of Trade, May 12, 1747, America and West Indies, vol. 595; to Secretary 
of State, June 15, 1748, id., 31. 4, &c. 

- Shirley to Bedford, Mar. 3, 1748. America and West Indies, 63, 108 ff. 

} Governor Philipps had visited the province only twice during his long 
governorship from 1719 to 1749. Cornwallis who succeeded Philipps was 
followed by Hopson, Apr. 4, 1752. Lawrence was appointed Lieut.-Governor 
Aug. 6, 1754, and upon Hopson's resignation the following year was appointed 
* Captain General and Governor-in-ChieP, Dec. 18, 1755. Board of Trade t 
Nova Scotia, 13. H. 85; 15. H. 248; 16. I. i. 


along the Atlantic seaboard from Georgia to New Hampshire. 
Not until three years later, after disasters had ravaged the frontiers 
from Oswego to Ticonderoga, did the struggle between France and 
Britain enter upon its last phase in the final capture of Louisbourg 
in 1758. 

By that time Shirley himself, the most consistent advocate of 
British power in Nova Scotia, was no longer directly associated 
with British policy. His work in America was over; but in his 
lodgings on Conduit Street in London whence this 'ablest colonial 
governor of the time' was constrained to beg of Newcastle a petty 
governorship in the Bahama Islands 'after so many Years in faith- 
full Services to the Crown', 1 Shirley must have reflected with some 
bitterness upon the vicissitudes of fortune in the final achievement 
of the 'Great Plan' for Nova Scotia. 


'Cruel and unnecessary' 2 as the expulsion of the Acadians may 
finally have proved to be in the military struggle for Nova Scotia, 
the indirect results upon the development of the province were 
very far-reaching. In 1755, upon the eve of the expulsion, Chief 
Justice Belcher estimated the number of Acadians at 8,ooo,3 and 
the British at scarcely more than 3,000. As it happened, the re- 
moval of the Acadians not only simplified the problem of govern- 
ment for those who remained but resulted indirectly in quickening 
the tendencies which Shirley had encouraged from the beginning. 
The settlement of New Englanders in the wake of the Acadian 
exile, and in increasing numbers after the fall of Louisbourg, 
introduced a basic element into the population which profoundly 
modified the prospects of representative government and left a 
mark upon Nova Scotian history for many generations to come. 

The forerunners of this migration had long since found their 
way to Nova Scotia under the normal incentives of private enter- 
prise. They were already familiar with the fur trade and the almost 
inexhaustible resources of timber and naval supplies. They had 
already exploited the fisheries and the trade, not always strictly 
legitimate, with the French inhabitants and even with the French 
authorities at Louisbourg. But the New Englanders who now 

1 Shirley Correspondence, ii. 599. 
a Osgood, op. cit. t iv. 361. 

3 Of these i ,000 were at Annapolis, i ,500 at Minas, i ,500 at Piziquid (Wind- 
sor), and 4,000 at Chignecto. America and West Indies, 597. 101. 
34" K 


settled the rich lands on the St. John River, at the head of 
the Bay of Fundy, in the Annapolis Valley, and on the south 
shore, came to live upon the soil and to establish what Chatham 
afterwards called 'a permanent natural right in the place*. Such 
'ever speak the voice of the people*, and perhaps there were no 
more enterprising and resourceful pioneers upon the Atlantic sea- 

During the early years of the Seven Years' War the atrocities of 
border warfare not only halted this migration but forced trie aban- 
donment of Lawrencetown and other pioneer settlements. With 
the final reduction of Louisbourg in 1758 the tide set in with silent 
but steady flow. Lawrence, it is clear, had fallen under the spell 
of Shirley's doctrine, with more than Shirley's optimism. In the 
autumn of 1757 he wrote that 20,000 families could be settled in the 
districts from Annapolis to Chignecto alone. Two proclamations 
were issued, one almost immediately after the fall of Louisbourg 
(October 12, 1758) and another in the following February. 1 Two 
months later agents from associations of settlers in Rhode Island 
and Connecticut were already upon the ground with surveyors and 
every resource of skill and enterprise. The response from Massa- 
chusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania was equally prompt. The 
settlements of Horton, Cornwallis, Falmouth, and Newport in the 
Annapolis Valley, of Oromocto on the St. John River, of Sackville 
and Cumberland at the head of the Bay of Fundy, were drawn 
from this tried material. * Their mark', writes Dr. MacMechan, 'is 
on every settlement they made to this day ; and the beautiful valley 
of Annapolis, one long, watered garden between its sheltering hills, 
testifies to their character and justifies the policy that planted them 
there.' * 

Many were already accounted 'rich '.3 Thus while Lawrence 
bluntly complained that 'every soldier that has come into this 
province since the establishment of Halifax has either quitted it 
or become a dram-seller', the New Englanders prospered from the 
outset by their own thrift and sobriety and enterprise. The party 
which settled at Liverpool on the 'south shore' of the province 
brought not only horses and cattle and sheep with them but thir- 
teen fishing schooners of their own. The crews sailed at once for 

1 Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 16, I. 46, 87, 90. 
* Canada and its Provinces, xiii. no. 

3 Belcher to Lords of Trade, Dec. 12, 1760. Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 
18. L. 17. 


the Banks leaving the rest of the party to erect three saw-mills on 
the river and to build from native pine and oak their houses for the 
winter. Seven years later a census of the province showed more 
than 25,000 head of live-stock, an output of more than 1,250,000 
feet of sawn 'lumber', a catch of over 50,000 quintals of cod and 
10,500 barrels of salmon and other fish, a fleet of nearly 500 
schooners, fishing-boats, and larger ships, and a crop of 67,000 
bushels of grain. More than half the population was classified as 
'Americans*. To most of them the traditions of colonial self- 
government were already familiar. Without relinquishing their 
intercourse with the provinces from which they had come they 
developed in the land of their adoption a spirited and sturdy self- 
reliance which survived in many curious ways until 'the American 
question* was solved upon British soil by the practice of responsible 



The issues in colonial government which accompanied and fol- 
lowed the achievement of Shirley's 'Great Plan* at the hands of 
Lawrence, his disciple in Nova Scotia, and of Halifax, were more 
than usually notable ; for the next decade and a half sealed the fate 
of the first Empire, and the Nova Scotia Assembly of 1758 Was the 
only one in America which did not eventually side with the Revo- 
lution. Though representing a predominantly New England popu- 
lation, it supplied, as we shall see, a commentary not without 
poignant contrasts upon the policy of Carleton and 'the King's 
friends' in the adjoining province of Quebec in discarding the 
scheme of settlement and of government prescribed for both pro- 
vinces by Halifax and the Board of Trade. 

Governor Cornwallis's Commission and Instructions contained 
directions for calling a General Assembly 'according to the usage 
of the rest of our Colonies and plantations in America'. No attempt 
was made by Cornwallis to carry these instructions into effect, and 
it must be admitted that the first settlers at Halifax showed little 
desire and less aptitude for self-government. The New Englanders 
were less complacent. There was already a skilfully directed claim 
on foot for an Assembly when Jonathan Belcher, Jr., arrived as 
Chief Justice of the province in 1754. Belcher who was a son of a 
former governor of Massachusetts now Governor of New Jersey 
immediately raised the issue in the council. Writing to John 


Pownall, the indefatigable Secretary of the Board of Trade under 
Halifax, he quoted the historic phrase in the governor's Com- 
mission authorizing governor and council to legislate for the 
province only 'by and with the consent of the General Assembly of 
the Province', and submitted the vital question 'whether the Pro- 
vincial Laws are binding as they have not been assented to by an 
Assembly'. 1 

It has been customary to charge the Board of Trade during these 
critical years preceding the Revolution with every delinquency 
from mere negligence to narrow and selfish meddlesomeness. 
After Hillsborough, long a member of the Board, had supplanted 
its functions as first Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1768, 
it was sent like the scapegoat into the wilderness; with none to 
defend it, all sorts of apocryphal and vicarious sins could safely be 
laid upon its head by the high-priests of royal power in England. 
The evidence from Nova Scotia and Quebec during this period 
does not warrant that tradition. The dominant influence of Lord 
Halifax and the unassuming ability of John Pownall, the permanent 
Secretary of the Board, are traceable in many ways throughout the 
critical period of early New England settlement and the calling of 
the first Assembly in Nova Scotia. It is noteworthy too that 
Halifax was in the Southern Department and John Pownall back 
at the Board of Trade when the instruments for the government of 
Quebec almost identical in policy with those for Nova Scotia 
were drafted after 1763. In neither province, as we shall see, was 
the policy of the Board wanting in consistency or discernment, and 
more than one project of coercion in the early stages of the Revo- 
lution met here a resolute opposition. 

The action of the Board in 1755 was prompt and decisive. Chief 
Justice Belcher's letter was dated January 16, 1766. By April 29 
the issue had been referred by the Board to the Attorney- and 
Solicitor-General, William Murray and Sir Richard Lloyd, and a 
report obtained that 'the Governor & Council alone are not 
Authorized ... to make Laws'. Scarcely more than a week later 
instructions were on their way to Lawrence in Halifax that 

'tho' the calling an Assembly may, in the present Circumstances 
of the Colony, be difficult, and attended with some Inconveniences, 
yet as the Attorney and Solicitor General are of opinion that the 
Governor and Council have no power to enact Laws, We cannot see 
how the Government can be properly carried on without an Assembly. 
1 Jan. 1 6, 1755, A. Series, 57. 58. 


... It is of the greatest consequence to the peace & Welfare of the 
Province, that the opinion of His Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor 
General should not be made publick, until an Assembly can be con- 
vened, and an Indemnification passed for such Acts as have been done 
under Laws enacted without any proper Authority/ l 


To Lawrence's brusque military temper this pother about an 
Assembly was 'altogether a point of Law', and the governor's re- 
sourcefulness in putting off the evil day must have brought a smile 
to the more indulgent members of the Board. It would be neces- 
sary 'to provide for the expence of a House for the Assembly to 
sit in, and for a Clerk and such Salary 'd Officers as may be thought 
necessary for their Attendance'. 2 Since their lordships were 'press- 
ing on the affair', the governor begged 'an Additional Instruction 
thereon'. An Assembly would 'serve only to create heats, Animosi- 
ties and disunion among the People'. There were a few 'malevo- 
lent and ill-designing Men' in the province, but the 'well disposed 
part' were 'not in the least uneasy', and if any had joined in the 
petition for an Assembly they had been 'led into it thro' inad- 
vertancy and the Specious pretences of the Persons I have been 
just now describing'. 3 

For two years the governor had his way. The Board's policy 
was urged from London with conviction tempered by a measure 
of indulgence, but in Nova Scotia the governor's will was not to 
be challenged with impunity. One hundred and eighty-six mer- 
chants of Halifax, having 'time after time, applyed to the Governor 
and Council' for the rights 'enjoyed in all other His Majesty's 
Colonys in America' as promised by 'His Majesty's Proclamation 
... at the beginning of the Settlement', raised a subscription to 
engage an agent in Great Britain for the purpose of urging 'the 
earnest and almost unanimous desire of the people*. Anonymous 
letters with less restraint found their way to the Board, seeking 
protection from the 'Fury & Resentment of the Governors, & all 
the placemen' against those who had petitioned for an Assembly, 
and imploring the Board to 'recall the present Governor, and send 
out another divested of Military Lawless Principles'. Monckton, 

1 Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 15. H. 293; Lords of Trade to Lawrence, 
May 7, 1755, id., 36. 118. Murray was afterwards Lord Chief Justice. 
* Lawrence to the Lords of Trade, Dec. 8, 1755, id., 68. 166. 
3 Lawrence to the Lords of Trade, Nov. 3, 1756, id., 60. 156. 


the Lieut.-Governor, was 'a thorough paced, Military, Arbitrary, 

and Inconstitutional Man'. 

Grand juries with conspicuous moderation cited the practical 
inconveniences to trade and industry. For Englishmen to be de- 
prived of proper legislation was 'not known in Any other Place in 
his Majesty's Dominions. . . . We should not have troubled your 
Lordships could We have Obtain J d any Relief here'. The memorial 
is certified by Chief Justice Belcher. And finally a memorial by 
four members of the council itself must have convinced the Board 
that peremptory measures were necessary. Despite the urgent 
advice of the council, the governor 'was pleased to declare that 
he would not issue the Writ, but should leave the Matter to the 
discretion of the Lieut. Governor as Commander in Chief in his 
Absence'. The council, therefore, 'did move the Lieut. Governor 
at the Council Board, that the Writ might issue' ; but 'to our great 
surprise we were inform'd by the Lieut. Governor that it was his 
Excellency's Opinion and his own that it was not a proper time to 
Call an Assembly'. The appeal to the Board of Trade was their 
last resort since no minutes of their protest were entered 'tho' 
desired, in the Council Books. . . . We have hitherto silently sub- 
mitted to the weight of His Excellency's Power and Influence'. 1 

The patience of the Board, however, had been exhausted, and 
instructions which admitted of no evasion were already upon the 
way. The fact that the same problem arose in the province of 
Quebec at the most critical stage of the American Revolution not 
only the same problem but the same policy urged by the same 
Board may warrant a careful examination of the principles under- 
lying this clear precedent in Nova Scotia. The inconveniences 
pointed out by Governor Lawrence were conceded : 

'Yet We cannot but be of opinion (continued the Board) that the 
Want of a proper Authority in the Governor and Council to enact 
such Laws as must be absolutely necessary in the Administration of 
Civil Government, is an Inconvenience and Evil still greater than all 
these. . . . We can by no means think, that that or any other Reason 
can justify the Continuation of the Exercise of an illegal Authority. 
. . . What you say with regard to the Council of Virginia passing Laws 
in the first infancy of that Colony is very true ; but then ... it was a 
power of very short duration, and in later times, since the Constitu- 
tion of this Country has been restored to its true Principles, has never 
been thought adviseable to be executed.' 2 

1 Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 61. i ff., 158 ff., 109 ff., &c. 
* Id., 59- 22 ff. 


There was no escape from these instructions. The governor 
issued the writs, and on October 2, 1758, met the first Assembly 
in what is now British North America the only British Assembly 
upon the continent that preceded and survived the American 
Revolution. 1 


Nova Scotia now took its place as the youngest, if not perhaps 
the humblest, among the normal provinces of the first Empire. 
Three years before, an Assembly had finally been convened in 
Georgia with a population of less than 4,000 whites. This also, it 
is clear, was part of the deliberate policy of the Board. Perhaps the 
primitive house about which Lawrence had been so concerned 'for 
the Assembly to sit in' at Halifax was as comely in its architecture 
as that described to the Board of Trade by Governor Reynolds in 
Savannah where the chimney and one end of the building once 
'fell with a crash and the magistrates came near being buried in 
the ruins 5 . 2 At all events when Governor Ellis, William Knox's 
old friend, was transferred from Georgia to Nova Scotia after the 
death of Lawrence in 1760, the new charge was regarded as a 

But 'dependency' in Nova Scotia was accentuated not only by 
policy but by nature and by self-interest. With little immediate 
prospect of paying its own way, the Assembly had little incentive 
either to use or to abuse the power of the purse by which the other 
powers of provincial Assemblies in America had so diligently been 
extorted. In Nova Scotia as in Georgia the deficits in the cost of 
civil government were met by the House of Commons, and the 
power of the purse in effect lay with the British Government. Much 
of the early prosperity of the province, moreover, was the result of 
lavish military and naval expenditures during the Seven Years' 
War. Fish and naval stores were the staple exports. The situa- 
tion of the province at the threshold of New France gave it an 
importance out of all proportion to its population and revenues. 
A measure of accommodation could scarcely fail to result from 
these mutual interests. Governor Lawrence greeted his first 
Assembly amidst the rejoicings that attended the final capture of 
Louisbourg. The first session closed in the midst of Wolfe's 

1 The writs, &c., were based upon the precedents of New Hampshire and 
Georgia. Twelve out of the twenty members of the first Assembly were elected 
from the province at large. Board of Trade, Nova Scotia y 36. 273; A. Series, 
61. i; Journals, Oct. 2, 1758. Osgood, op cit. y iv. 246. 


campaign against Quebec. The House was duly impressed with 
'the Happiness and prosperity . . . from His Majesty's Royal 
Favour to this Infant Colony*. 

Without local traditions and without the central dignity which 
comes only with administrative responsibility, newly constituted 
popular assemblies have seldom been noted for studied modera- 
tion. From many of these normal tendencies the first Assembly in 
Nova Scotia was saved by the temper and experience of the men 
who composed it. Many of them were native New Eu'glanders 
with more than the average knowledge of the issues of the day. 
Despite the bitterness of 'the seven years' war for an Assembly', the 
mutual misgivings between the governor and the House quickly 
vanished. 1 Before the first session was over Lawrence found him- 
self playing the benevolent mediator between council and Assem- 
bly, and begging them 'to Record nothing ... to tarnish the Credit 
of your proceedings'. 2 

With a spirit and a knowledge of precedent which the Board of 
Trade, in reviewing the Journals, shrewdly traced to an origin in 
New England, the House lost no time in asserting privileges both 
legitimate and otherwise. A resolution for a return of fees and 
perquisites by all officers of civil government in the province was 
generally complied with; but John Collier, a member of the 
council and judge of probate, was also a judge of the Vice- Ad- 
miralty Court, and in that capacity quite properly declined to obey 
the order of the House. The Assembly voted his conduct 'an high 
Contempt of the Authority of this House', and the excessive fees 
of the Vice- Admiralty Court 'oppressive to the People and without 
Colour of Law'. The council tactfully retorted 'that the Reso- 
lution, had it been any other than that of the Assembly, would have 
been a rude and groundless aspersion'. 3 A Bill was passed for the 
regulation of future elections, 'to which His Excellency Answered 
that such Power certainly lay with him and Him alone'. 4 The 
legal adviser of the Board noted from the Journals that a Bill had 
been 'brought in, Read three times, Ingrossed and Ordered to be 

1 Cf. Lawrence to Lords of Trade, Sept. 26, 1758: 'I hope I shall not find 
in any of them a disposition ... to dispute the Royal Prerogative, though I ob- 
serve that too many of the Members chosen are such as have not been the most 
remarkable for promoting Unity, or Obedience to his Majesty's Governm*. here/ 
Board of Trade, Nova Scotia, 16. I. 75. 

a Governor's Messages, Journals, Nov. 3, 1758, Aug. i, 1759- 

3 Minutes of Council, Mar. 29, 1759. Collier, in fact, had signed the protest 
of the council in favour of an Assembly. A. Series, 61. 109. 

4 Journals, Feb. 17, 1759. 


sent up for Concurrence, all in one Day'. There had also been 
'Encroachment upon the Right of the Governor', and it was im- 
perative that 'some stop may be put to their continuing to Inter- 
meddle therein'. 1 

But these were the views of critics; upon safer grounds the 
Assembly was spirited enough to hold its own. Perhaps the most 
discerning measure of the session was a motion for the appoint- 
ment of a provincial treasurer after the model of New York. The 
'Hinshelwood incident' too became historic. One of the members 
of the House was cursed roundly in the streets of Halifax for the 
meddlesomeness of the Assembly in criticizing Hinshelwood's 
office. The offender was summoned to the bar of the House where 
he humbly apologized both orally and in writing, and was placed 
in custody until the following day. In 1759 ^ ie ^ rst Assembly was 
dissolved. They had 'unanimously resolved . . . that they would 
all serve without Reward'. The writs for the new House were 
delayed until the new 'Freeholders of King's County' could reach 
their farms the vanguard, as we have seen, during the summer 
of 1759, of a steady and almost spontaneous migration which 
changed the whole outlook of the province. Thenceforth, until 
the coming of the Loyalists, the control of the Assembly and of 
the province at large passed steadily into their hands. 


For the decade and a half preceding the outbreak of the American 
Revolution the Journals of the Assembly contain little evidence of 
an unaccommodating temper except in the periodical contests with 
the council in which the House usually looked, not in vain, for 
support from the Board of Trade. The governor and council, 
fortified by their control over British parliamentary grants and 
local administration, regulated the franchise, the electoral districts, 
and 'all Rules for the Electing of Members'. 2 The dissolution of 
the House was long determined by resolution of the council, 3 and 
more than one attempt was made to regulate the quorum and the 
standing rules of the House in the interests of the administration. 

The response of the House to these encroachments was always 

1 Sir Matthew Lamb to Lords of Trade, Mar. 5, 1760. For the influence of 
legal counsel upon constitutional development in the colonies see Dickerson, 
American Government, 1696-1765, 264 ff. 

a Minutes of Council, July 5, 1775. 

3 Cf. Minutes of Council, Apr. 2, 1770: 'Resolved that the General Assembly 
(elected May, 1765) be Disolved.' 

34" L 


spirited and frequently reached a high level of political sagacity. 
The * quorum controversy' may be taken to illustrate tactics on the 
part of the Assembly which became traditional in Nova Scotia, and 
remained an unwritten law of political strategy until responsible 
government itself was finally achieved. The difficulty of securing 
a quorum in regular attendance in the Assembly was the subject 
of a report from a committee of the council. The report went to 
Dartmouth, Secretary of State for the Colonies, who returned it to 
the governor with instructions to lay it before the Assembly. The 
resolution of the Assembly in reply was written within a few weeks 
of Lexington. They had not * words to express the high sense we 
have of the goodness and Justice of Our Gracious King & His 
Ministers on this occasion, who by referring Your Excellency to 
the Legislature of this Province on this most interesting & consti- 
tutional measure, have shown their strict regard to the rights of the 
People in this Province'. The proposal of the council to fix the 
quorum at nine instead of twelve, and to allot four additional 
members to the town and county of Halifax, was Subversive of 
real Representation & in its consequences must render a Governor 
of this province absolute', since it would 'command a Quorum at 
all times on the spot'. 

* With a dependant Council & a Majority of such a Quorum of Assembly, 
what might not an Ambitious Governor effect. 

Dictatorial powers may be necessary to quell insurrections or to rule 
a disaffected People; but where no such principles exist, the exertion 
of such Powers will create them. . . . 

These great and good purposes will be best promoted by preserving 
the freedom of Elections & rendering the applications of the House 
of Assembly to the King & Parliament for the Redress of Grievances, 

In preserving the 'Privileges of the People' His Excellency would 
'best defend the prerogatives of Our Common Sovereign'. 1 

In such an atmosphere the stand of the thirteen colonies 'not 
against tyranny inflicted but only against tyranny anticipated' 
awakened little response. The Kings County farmer had brothers 
or cousins among the 'patriots' of Massachusetts or Rhode Island, 
and his rugged opposition to the whole official policy of coercion 
is everywhere in evidence; but extreme measures were generally 
deplored. Lord William Campbell, the governor, reported in 1770 
that he could not discover in the Nova Scotia Assembly 'any of 
1 Minutes of Council^ June 29, 1775. 


that Licentious principle, with which the Neighbouring Colonies 
are so highly infected'. 1 The apathy of the province invited caustic 
criticism from New England where the Nova Scotian Assembly's 
professed 'sense of the Greatest Loyalty and Gratitude' was inter- 
preted after Hobbes's definition as a lively sense of favours to 

In truth every interest predisposed the province to the consti- 
tutionalist point of view. After lavish expenditures upon the 
military and naval establishments as well as the civil government 
of the province, the prospect of parliamentary taxation for im- 
perial purposes was not alarming, while the direct benefits to be 
anticipated from the new imperial policy in America were out of 
all proportion to the revenues or population of the province. 
There was a suggestion that Nova Scotia might become the 'Head 
Quarters of the British Land and Sea Forces in America'. 2 The 
imperial project of making executive officers of government and 
the military forces of the Crown in America independent of the 
local Assemblies was not only an accomplished fact but a common- 
place in Nova Scotia. The province had long been familiar with 
the supremacy of Parliament * which they have never thought a 
Burden' ; 3 hitherto the result had not been tyranny. In the contest 
with the council and eventually with the governor himself, the 
Assembly was to find its staunchest allies in the Board of Trade 
and the Secretary of State. In the Address on the 'quorum con- 
troversy' the House recorded its conviction that both Crown and 
Parliament of Great Britain 'have nothing more at Heart than that 
His Majesty's American Subjects should enjoy constitutional 
freedom'. 4 

While this may have been the general faith of the Assembly, 
there were extremists on both sides. In both council and Assembly 
there were those whose attachment to the British cause was marked 
by a degree of subserviency which betrayed the presence of less 
creditable motives. On the other hand there were a few who were 
as 'licentious' as the bands that were tarring and feathering Vice- 
Admiralty officials in Massachusetts. As the Revolution took form 
in the other colonies these extremists asserted themselves in Nova 
Scotia; the one type, as was to be expected, openly and at times 

1 To Hillsborough, June 13, 1770, Colonial Correspondence, Nova Scotia > 
5- 36. 

3 Address of the Assembly, June 23, 1775, A. Series, 94. n ff. 
3 Mauger to Pownall, Oct. 16, 1775. Id., 93. 213. 
* Quoted in Minutes of Council, June 29, 1775. 


arrogantly; the other cautiously and in secret. Nothing contri- 
buted more to separate the two, to confirm the one in abject sub- 
serviency and to drive the other to desperation, than the arrival of 
Francis Legge as governor of the province in October, 1773. 



Governor Legge must have belonged to that school of British 
officers to whose arrogance and narrow prejudices much of the 
irremediable bitterness of the Revolutionary War was directly 
attributable. He was a relative of the Earl of Dartmouth who had 
succeeded Hillsborough as Secretary for America in 1772. Both 
Dartmouth and his protege bore a name long favourably known in 
America. 1 Even Legge *s enemies and before he left Nova Scotia 
there were few indeed who did not belong to that number could 
not deny him courage in danger and honesty in administration. 
After Lexington he sent off four regiments of troops to Gage's 
assistance, and at one period the dockyards and stores at Halifax, 
valued at half a million pounds, were guarded by exactly three 
dozen ragged regulars. But in Legge's forthright character arro- 
gance itself was ingenuous almost beyond belief; and such was the 
vindictiveness of his temper, the truculence which marked his 
personal relations with all but the narrow circle of favourites who 
enjoyed his confidence, the almost unbelievable fury with which 
he pursued his personal animosities against Lieut. -Governor 
Francklin, against the aged Chief Justice, against the Attorney- 
General, the Secretary of the Province, the chief members of the 
council, the Speaker of the Assembly that his name in Nova 
Scotia is still held in popular execration. 

Legge cime to Nova Scotia at the most critical period in the 
American Revolution. His views of that struggle seem to have 
been unrelieved by a single ray of discernment. In May, 1774, he 
assured the Secretary of the Board of Trade that the disorders in 
America would yield to nothing but 'coercive measures', and that 
the 'single example made of the Town of Boston will be a means 
to convince the Americans, that it is their Interest as well as duty 
to be amenable to the Laws of Great Britain*. He wrote to Admiral 

1 But cf. Dartmouth to Legge, May 4, 1774: 'The Governorship of Nova 
Scotia will probably be vacant for you very soon, if not, another will, to one or 
other of wch. you will be appointed.' Dartmouth Papers , I. 2. 853. Pub. Arch. Can. 


every Briton all these were imperial. For the official type of mind 
with its hard virtues and its impatience of anomalies this glittering 
array of organization must have exercised a fascination which it 
was scarcely in human nature to resist. 

By all the orthodox canons of officialdom the Right Honourable 
George Grenville must have been one of the most virtuous and 
admirable of men. William Knox, who defended the policy, and, 
after Grenville 's death, 'the memory of that great and excellent 
man*, claims to have been admitted to a closer intimacy with him 
than 'that great Minister's nearest relations 1 . 1 Neither to his 
friends nor to himself, wrote Knox in 1789, 'would he warp the 
public interest or service in the smallest degree; rigid in his 
opinions of public justice and integrity, and firm to inflexibility 
in the construction of his mind, he reprobated every suggestion of 
the political expediency of overlooking frauds or evasions in the 
payment or collection of the revenue, or of waste and extravagance 
in its expenditure'. 2 

'With a masculine understanding and a stout and resolute heart (says 
Burke in the memorable lines on American Taxation), he had an 
application undissipated and unwearied. . . . But it may be truly said 
that men too much conversant in office are rarely minds of remarkable 
enlargement. . . . Mr. Grenville thought better of the wisdom and 
power of human legislation than in truth it deserves. He conceived, 
and many conceived along with him, that the flourishing trade of this 
country was greatly owing to law and institution, and not quite so 
much to liberty ; for but too many are apt to believe regulation to be 
commerce and taxes to be revenue.' 

The laws against illicit trade were already upon the statute-books. 
Why not enforce them ? In 1764 it was determined to enforce the 
Molasses Act at $d. per gallon. The Sugar Act of the same year 
under the guise of commercial regulation avowed the ominous 
principle that it was 'just and necessary that a revenue be raised in 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 31-2. 

2 Id., p. 34. Cf. Grenville to Knox, Aug. 28, 1768: 'I may appeal to you as 
a private man, and as a Member of Parliament, to my public declarations, that 
my opinions upon this subject have ever been uniformly the same.' Id., Appen- 
dix, No. IV, p. 19. Cf. also Grenville's diary for July 10, 1765, at the time of 
his resignation: 'he besought His Majesty, as he valued his own safety, not to 
suffer any one to advise him to separate or draw the line between his British 
and American dominions . . . that if any man ventured to defeat the regulations 
laid down for the Colonies, by a slackness in the execution, he should look upon 
him as a criminal and the betrayer of his country/ Grenville Correspondence, 
1853, iii. 215-16. 


But these subtle distinctions were lost upon Governor Legge, 
who seems to have been initiated into the feud by the opposing 
faction. By January, 1775, Legge had entered the fray with an 
invincible conviction that 'these Monopolizers' had been responsible 
for filling * Every Coffee House in London . . . with Falsehood and 
unjust aspersions against every Governor his Majesty has thought 
fit to appoint*. Michael Francklin of Windsor, the Lieut.-Gover- 
nor, was in 'total dependance on this Party*. They had 'so com- 
pleatly acquired the Influence and Command of the Inhabitants 
of this Town that there is at present scarce a Merchant, Shop 
Keeper, Tradesman, Retailer of Spirituous Liquors, and all other 
Labourers ajid low Macanicks but intirely have their dependance 
on this Party*. 1 In an official dispatch to Dartmouth four members 
of the council are roundly charged with guilty collusion in fiscal 
irregularities which the governor hoped to detect. Against one of 
them, Jonathan Binney, whose name had headed the subscription 
list for an agent to press for an Assembly in 1757 and who had 
been elected to the first House the following year, the governor 
pursued a relentless vendetta which did not cease even with his 
recall. Despite the recorded advice of the council, the governor 
directed an action against Binney in the Courts, and according to a 
petition of five members of the council headed by the Chief 
Justice himself, caused him 'to be unjustly sued and imprisoned*. 
A special Exchequer Court was constituted for nine months 'for 
the more effective investigation* of such cases. The governor 
appeared in person 'at Trials instituted by his Order . . . overawing 
and influencing the Jury and Officers of Justice*. 2 Binney was con- 
fined in the Halifax jail with his wife and children for nearly two 
months and a half, and finally sought redress , not in vain , in London . 
Not to be outdone, the governor gave Burrow, the Inspector- 
General of Customs, leave of absence and sent him home to defend 
his interests. The egregious correspondence between Legge and 
Burrow is an almost incredible record of petty vindictiveness. 
When Burrow finally advised the governor that he was to be 
summoned home 3 it was still with the hope of 'effectually crushing 

1 Legge to Dartmouth, A. Series, 93. 83. 

1 Jan. i, 1776. Id., 95. 14. Cf. charges against Legge, id., 95. 139: 'even 
sent to his own house for Wine and other refreshment to be brought him to 
the Court House, that he may not be absent on said Trial.' 

3 'In which I most cordially joined; on the proviso, Francklin was dismissed.' 
Burrow to Legge, Feb. 28, 1776. Id. 95. 148. 

Dartmouth, who supported his kinsman unreservedly until the investigation 


these Vipers, & nest of Cormorants'. Dartmouth, however, had 
left the American Department, and Germain's measures were 
prompt and decisive. Legge was not to return to Nova Scotia. A 
British Order in Council directed the governor to assent to a Bill 
passed by the Assembly 'for the relief of Jonathan Binney'. 
For Francklin, whose magnanimous and exemplary conduct 
throughout this ordeal shines like a beacon, a 'kind and friendly 
letter' from Pownall, the Joint Secretary of the American Depart- 
ment, at last brought 'Balm for the Wound' he had received after 
sixteen years of public service. 1 

Legge's relations with almost every interest in the province were 
poisoned by the same narrow and suspicious temper. William 
Smith of Halifax, Justice of the Peace, Judge of the inferior Court 
of Common Pleas, and member of the Assembly, invited a few 
merchants of the town to meet him 'on business of consequence', 
the business of consequence being the disposal of a shipment of 
tea from New England which did not belong to the East India 
Company. Smith, when summoned before the governor and 
council, admitted that 'were it the property of the East India 
Company the People wou'd be prejudiced against it', and that he 
'would have had nothing to do with it'. After the 'Boston tea 
party' Dartmouth himself had sent directions for disposing of the 
Company's tea in Nova Scotia this savoured of sedition. Smith's 
commission was cancelled and he was 'removed from those & all 
other his Employments under Government'. Fillis, another 
member of the Assembly, suffered the same fate for his 'sentiments 
in opposition to the importation of Tea'. Both were charged with 
complicity in the burning of hay intended for Gage's cavalry in 
Boston. The Assembly in defending them as 'dutiful and loyal 
subjects' was 'unanimously of Opinion that the said Reports are 
base infamous and false'. This action the governor interpreted as 
a combination with his enemies, and attributed it to the fact that 
'the Majority of our Assembly are Persons born in New England' . 


The confusion which finally overwhelmed Legge's administra- 
tion in Nova Scotia arose from his active measures against the 
thirteen colonies. In Nova Scotia under Legge, as in Quebec 

in London, finally withdrew his protection. Dartmouth Papers, I. 2. 1255, 1305, 
&c. 1 A. Series, 95. 320. 

a Minutes of Council, Sept. 16, 1774; Journals, M. 397. n, p. 26; Legge to 
Dartmouth, July 31, 1775, A. Series, 94. 48. 


under Carleton, there is discernible a deliberate reversal of the 

'Great Plan* of Shirley and of Halifax for the northern provinces. 

Legge lost no opportunity of girding at the New Englanders. 
The Acadians had been driven out and their fertile lands appro- 
priated by wealthy settlers who had 'never . . . contributed towards 
the charges and expenses of Government from their Real and 
Personal Estates, one Shilling'. 1 The atrocities of Indian warfare 
and the insoluble problems of the 'neutral French* during the 
Seven Years' War were now forgotten. In June, 1775, Gage in 
Boston instructed Legge to raise the newly arrived 'Hylanders' of 
the Pictou district and to 'secure the Indians to our Side ... I may 
possibly have occasion for them, in these parts; ... I wish you 
would likewise try the temper of the Accadians, remaining in your 
Province. Its possible that some of them may be tempted to rise 
for the King'. 2 Legge responded with a proposal to raise a regi- 
ment 'to be compos'd of Germans, Neutrals and Irish'. The New 
Englanders, he added, were 'too much of the same Sentiment with 
the people of the Country from whence they come '.3 Here was a 
strange reversal of the policy of Lawrence. The governor hoped 
for a third of his regiment from the Acadians, and more than a 
hundred men actually responded. Martial law was declared in 
December, 1775. When two measures were finally forced through 
the Assembly for the levying of every fifth man in the province by 
ballot and an assessment in specie for the defence of the province, 
the result was 'an universal uproar' 4 which the governor character- 
istically attributed to treasonable motives. 

Petitions poured in against both measures. In Truro specie was 
so scarce that it was 'impossible ... to raise money if it were to 
save our lives'. The inhabitants of Yarmouth were 'true Friends 
and Loyal Subjects to George our King', but they were 'almost 
all ... born in New England'. 'We have Fathers, Brothers and 
Sisters in that Country', they added, 'divided between natural 
affection to our nearest relations, and good Faith and Friendship 
to our King and Country.' From Cumberland County nearly 250 
petitioners protested that 'it must be the greatest piece of Cruelty 
and Imposition, for them to be subjected to march ... in arms 
against their Friends and Relatives'. 5 

1 Legge to Dartmouth, Nov. 15, 1774. A. Series, 91. no. 

2 'Gain their Priest (if there is one with them) and you will succeed.* Gage 
to Legge, June 7, 1775. Id., 94. 133- 3 Id. t 94- 59, 151- 

* Id., 94. 289; 95. 61, 108. 
5 Id., 95. 34; 94. 300, 328. 


From the Annapolis Valley there were fewer petitions, but the 
egregious Captain Stanton, sent by the governor to 'discover 
their Principles Views Sentiments Wishes Hopes and 
Fears' sent in a report which confirmed Legge's worst pre- 
possessions. 'Their Principles are Republican Their Views, to 
Subvert the English Constitution in this Province Their Senti- 
ments, taken generally, are, that there is too much power vested 
in the Governor. . . . Their Wishes are, that the Rebels . . . may 
invade this Province. . . . Their Hopes are, to profit by the con- 
fusion. . . . Their Fears are, least by mistake they should join the 
weaker Party.' 'As nineteen out of twenty are natives of New 
England/ Stanton concluded, 'to put a Confidence in such Fellows 
would be acting like the man who cherished a snake in his bosom, 
till heated with the warmth of his blood, it bit him to death/ In 
commending Stanton 's report to Dartmouth, the governor found 
in these 'most accurate and pertinent observations' evidence alike of 
Stanton's 'capacity and good conduct', and of the 'base principles 
which actuate the greater part of the People of this Province'. 1 

Perhaps the best commentary upon this desperate conclusion is 
to be found in the sequel. Germain replied almost savagely that 
the promotion proposed by Legge for Captain Stanton was 'en- 
tirely disapproved by the King, and he is ordered to return imme- 
diately to join his Regiment'. 2 Legge himself was to return at once 
to England. Francklin, after many ineffectual protests against the 
governor's 'coercive measures', was at last authorized to adopt 
other methods. Among the New Englanders of Kings County he 
enrolled 'more than nine-tenths of all the able men in those 
Townships' as a volunteer militia under oath for the defence of 
the province against a projected American invasion. 3 

Petitions for the governor's recall came from almost every free 
agency in the province. Five members of the council, 'in the most 
publick manner', formed an association pledged to maintain the 
British connexion with their lives and fortunes ; but in a petition 
to the Crown they solemnly asserted in the name of 'duty to Your 
Majesty and Love to Our Country' that 'unless this Gentleman 
be speedily removed this valuable Province may be lost'. 4 One 
member of the council, not without a personal interest in the 
matter, wrote to Mauger that the governor could not remain 

1 A. Series, 94. 272, 343. * Feb. 24, 1776, id., 95. 118. 

3 Francklin to Pownall, May 4, 1776, id., 95. 320. For the oath of the volun- 
teers, id., 95. 199. 4 Id., 95. 14. 


'without ruin to the Province'. 'If he is not moved we shall be all 
in Flame/ A general petition bearing among others the names 
of the Rector of St. Paul's, the Speaker of the Assembly, a Deputy 
Judge of Vice- Admiralty, and a Judge of the Court of Common 
Pleas, affirmed that 'this Your Majesty's valuable Province may 
be irrecoverably lost, unless Governor Legge be speedily re- 
moved'. 1 Francklin too urged his years of public service in Nova 
Scotia as a warrant for defending the good name of the province. 
The governor had made 

'representations highly injurious to the Characters, and reputations 
of the Officers of Government, and that few or none of the Inhabitants 
of the Province in General, not even the very Officers of this Govern- 
ment, but what are disaffected, and are inclinable to give countenance 
and assistance to the Rebells. ... I do avow and assert that such 
representations are totally untrue, and without foundation, which 
can be made appear by a thousand instances'. 2 


The weightiest protest, however, came from another quarter, 
and in the end Dartmouth himself was daunted by it. In the 
Assembly the deadly animosities which embittered the governor's 
personal relations were less in evidence. Here, a few weeks after 
Lexington, an attempt was made to lift the conflict above the level 
of personal vindictiveness, and to reaffirm in the form of some 
practicable policy a hope that traditional British methods of reform 
might yet avail 'in this dreadful and alarming crisis'. In some 
quarters perhaps in the minds of the secret drafting committee 
of the House as they toiled through the long June days of 1775 
this hope was scarcely more than an instinctive and desperate 
faith. But the attempt to formulate that faith constructively is re- 
markable for its magnanimity and for its courage ; for among these 
humble legislators in the only British Assembly (except that of 
Prince Edward Island, convened in 1773) destined to survive that 
'alarming crisis', there were those who dared to hope that the 
'proceedings in this Assembly may possibly have some influence 
with other Assemblies in America'. 

The immediate object of the Address of June 24, 1775, was to 
urge 'such Regulations, as we conceive most likely to preserve the 
Inhabitants of this province, in duty and allegiance'. For reasons 
that are easily surmised the Address is not to be found in the 

1 A. Series, 95. 18. * Id., 95. 26. 


Journals of the House. Even the record of the drafting committee 
was 'concealed from me', wrote the governor, 'until it came out in 
their Printed votes'. After ten days of dour deliberation the 
Address was finally drawn up in triplicate, one copy going to the 
King in Council, one to the Speaker of the House of Commons, 
and one to the Lprd Chancellor for the House of Lords. 1 Legge 
reported that 'on the best information, it ... contains some pro- 
jection for the alteration of Government upon the American 
System' of Popularity, which if attended to, may produce the same 
convulsions in this as in the other Provinces'.* The leading spirit 
was 'a Member Mr. Day, who . . . had resided at Philadelphia 
where the Legislative Power consists only of Governor and Repre- 
sentatives, the most popular Government in America. . . . The 
Majority of our Assembly are Persons born in New England'. 
Their secrecy was 'double dealing'. It was clear to the governor 
that he required greater authority in order to 'Suppress in embrio 
opposition to government, and to preserve a due Subordination'. 3 
The temper of the Address itself is a remarkable commentary 
upon that of the governor. The Assembly was 'animated with the 
firmest attachment to the Mother Country, Zealous to support her 
power and consequence, over all the British Dominions, and 
dreading a Separation from her Government, and protection, as 
the greatest political evil which can befall us or our posterity'. 
There was an acknowledgement, unanimously given, of the legis- 
lative supremacy of the British Parliament and of an 'indispensable 
Duty to pay a due proportion of the Expence of this great Empire'. 
The discharge of this duty without resorting to British parliament- 
ary taxation was undoubtedly the chief constructive feature of the 
Address, and the method proposed is best summarized perhaps in 
Day's original motion : 

'that the Legislature of this Province may be permitted to grant to 
His Majesty a certain duty of Impost on all Commodities imported 
into the said Province, not being the Growth of His Majesty's 
European or American Dominions (Salt only excepted) and that the 
Same may be accepted in Lieu of all Taxes, payable in this Province 

1 The Address to the House of Commons is in A. Series, 94. 1 1 ff. 

3 Legge to Dartmouth, June 27, 1775, id. t 93. 303. 

3 Id., 94. 48, 113: 'There can be no ill consequences arise from such Powers, 
because . . . every Honest Man, that has the interests of his King and Country 
at heart, and his own Reputation, will always take care that no just complaint 
shall be formed against him.* 

It is impossible in this to doubt Legge's honesty and ingenuousness. 


by virtue of any Acts of Parliament/ 'So conscious (adds the Address) 
are we of your Justice and Humanity that we request to know what 
proportion would be pleasing or agreeable to you/ 

In support of their plan they urged that it would never be 
necessary to alter it, that it would increase automatically with the 
affluence of the province, that it would not be affected by the 
increase of gold and silver in the world, and that its effectiveness 
could be ensured by stringent regulations against illicit trade and 
fraudulent dealings. It would dispense with a multitude o,f officials 
and 'prevent that corruption of manners and that contempt of the 
crime of perjury which is now become so open and flagrant*. 
Finally 'appoint good and sufficient Salarys, to the Officers of the 
Customs and absolutely forbid them to take any Fee'. 

The Assembly sought other reforms of less immediate urgency ; 
assemblies to be elected triennially and by ballot ; revenue officers 
to be ineligible for both council and Assembly; judges of the 
Supreme Court to 'have their Commission during good behaviour 
in the same manner as in England' ; the boundaries of the counties to 
be fixed by the Legislature ; sheriffs to preside over elections instead 
of a Provost-Marshal 'if we are not relieved in this particular, 
we can have no pretensions even to the name of Freemen'. 

'Finally, we most humbly request, that the Assembly of this province 
may be called together annually, and that no Governor may be allowed 
to dissolve, or Prorogue them, when he shall be informed that they 
are preparing a petition to our Gracious King and Parliament of 
Great Britain.' 

'May the Spirit of Concord, Justice, and publick Virtue, direct the 
Councils of the British Senate, and may the Father of mercies pre- 
serve constitutional Freedom, to the British Race, in every part of the 


I . 

Had Governor Legge been sustained by the British Government 
there can be little doubt that the overtures of Congress might have 
met a different response from Nova Scotia. The charges were re- 
ferred to the Board of Trade. Their decision was based upon 'the 

1 A. Series, 94. 1 1 ff. A very interesting sidelight upon the 'Mauger interests' 
is found in the petition of the Assembly that no native of the province should 
be appointed Governor, Lieut. -Governor or Judge of the Supreme Court. 'The 
Ambitions of affluent Individuals . . . have led to faction and partys. . . . The 
present disputes in America, may have been promoted by this cause.* 


unanimous voice of the Province of Nova Scotia, by their repre- 
sentatives in General Assembly', and Dartmouth himself added 
emphatically that 'the advice . . . will not be disapproved by the 
Crown'. 1 Early in 1776 Burrow had reported to Legge that Ger- 
main's administration was likely to prove a reversal of the Dart- 
mouth regime. Carleton was to be recalled from Quebec. 'General 
Gage does not go out again/ Admiral Graves was to be tried at 
his own request by court martial, and '22,000 foreign Troops are 
taken into pay'. 3 In Nova Scotia Legge's recall was interpreted 
as the vindication of a 'loyal and devoted people' ; and thus it came 
to pass that conflict with the governor led not to conflict but to 
increasing concord with the Board of Trade and the American 
Department. The * unsuspecting confidence', conspicuous seventy 
years later in the transition from governance to self-government 
in Nova Scotia, is thus to be found at the earlier crisis in its 
history; and it may be added that it was never again altogether 

For a few months after Legge's departure from Nova Scotia the 
state of the northern part of the province was still precarious. In 
Cumberland County on the mainland, and on the St. John, 
sympathy with the cause of the thirteen colonies was undoubtedly 
active. At one time it was reported that Arnold's expedition against 
Quebec by way of the Kennebec River was intended for 'Nova 
Scotia. Charles Dixon, a well-informed but friendly critic at 
Sackville, deplored the two obnoxious Acts which had caused the 
'universal uproar' in the province. 'The Country will be in Re- 
bellion', he wrote in January, 1776. 'Such a plan has been already 
adopted, till the persons who were most active, were oblig'd, to 
publickly discourage it', pending the use of 'all Lawfull means' to 
repeal the two Acts. 3 There can be no doubt that two members of 
the Assembly, Jonathan Eddy and John Allan, sought from the 
first to commit the province to revolution. But after Carleton's 
brilliant defence of Quebec, Nova Scotia was never seriously in 
danger * Of the 600 men promised by Eddy and Allan in case of 

1 Dartmouth Papers, I. 2. 1308, 1305. 

a Burrow to Legge, Mar. 8, 1776, A. Series, 95. 179. 

3 'For God's Sake use your Interest & Wisdom in this Matter, and the Lord 
give you and those concern'd a discerning Spirit, to discern what may be for 
our present and future Peace.* Charles Dixon to John Butler, Jan. 14, 1776. 
Id., 95. 1 08. 

4 Lieut. -Governor Arbuthnot (who succeeded to the administration after 
Legge's departure) to Germain, July 8, 1776, Colonial Correspondence, Nova 
Scotia, 10. 262. 


an invasion, fewer than 200 appeared in arms for the futile attack 
upon Fort Cumberland in November, 1776, and more than 100 
laid down their arms upon the promise of amnesty. Among the 
number was 'a talented young Irishman of huge stature*, twenty- 
two years of age, whose name in characteristic script had already 
been writ large, very literally, in one of the earliest petitions against 
Governor Legge's administration. It was yet to be writ large, in 
another sense, in the history of the province; for R. J. Uniacke 
lived to be Speaker of the Assembly, and afterwards Attorney- 
General and Executive Councillor until the very eve of responsible 
government. His was one of the first projects on record for the 
confederation of the British provinces after the Revolution ; and 
his son was to be the first premier of a British province under 
responsible government. 

'No man', wrote the Hon. R. J. Uniacke in 1826, 'has had a better 
opportunity of forming an opinion on this subject than I have had. 
In the year 1774 I travelled through a large part of those Colonies. 
I saw their first Congress assemble at Philadelphia the same year, and 
I continued in America from the very commencement of the revolu- 
tion to its conclusion. . . . 

Had the administration of His late Majesty met the wishes of the 
North American Colonies fifty years ago with the same liberality and 
enlightened wisdom that influences His present Majesty's Govern- 
ment, there cannot be a doubt that the separation of that Country 
from the British Crown would not have taken place.' l 

The uprising in the north was not reflected in the Assembly. By 
resolution of the House the members for the 'rebellious' township 
of Onslow were unseated, and the Assembly elected in 1770 con- 
tinued to sit throughout the Revolutionary War. The old con- 
troversy was closed by an Address of thanks on behalf of council 
and Assembly for the removal of Legge from the government of 
the province. 2 Thereafter Lieut.-Governor Arbuthnot Francklin 
was now Superintendent of Indian Affairs had little but harmony 
to report of the Nova Scotia Legislature. In truth issues of reform 
and self-government were no longer imperative. The Speaker of 
the Assembly was assured by John Pownall himself that the secret 
Address of 1775 had been received 'very graciously*, and that 'the 
fullest consideration will be given to the several Propositions con- 

1 A. Series, 167. 344 ff. 

1 Id., 10. 253. Instructions for the dissolution of the Assembly, May 9, 1781, 
were lost in transit, Colonial Office, Nova Scotia, i. 333; America and West 
Indies, 597. 223. 


tained therein*. 1 But the years that followed belong to the military 
history of the Revolution. The immediate solution of 'the Ameri- 
can question 5 was to be found in the field and not in the forum ; 
and in the wake of war came the loyalists who trebled the popu- 
lation of the province, and submerged every other consideration 
in the desperate struggle for existence. 


The effects of the War of Independence upon Nova Scotia were 
curiously paradoxical. On the one hand the issues of the Revo- 
lution left the province British in many respects more stolidly 
British than they found it. The political temper of the province, 
its faith in constitutional methods of reform, its instinctive ad- 
herence to British precedent, passed into a tradition. On the other 
hand, the promise of the pre-revolutionary Assembly under the 
spirited and resourceful leadership of Day and Denson and Tonge 
and Morris, was quickly overshadowed by the urgent problems of 
the war and the still more imperative problems of peace. Even the 
moderate programme of 1775 was lost to sight. For the first 
generation of loyalists the gloom of exile seldom lifted from the 
horizon. Traces of the old spirit are still to be found, but not 
again in the ascendant until settled conditions of life began at last 
to emerge from the vicissitudes of the loyalist migrations. 

Many conditions combined to effect the security of the province 
during the war and to fix its British character at the close. The 
geographical advantages of the province for naval defence were 
obvious. Sea power, as Washington saw, was to have 'the casting 
vote' in the Revolutionary War; but though British sea power 
could be broken by the allies long enough to force the surrender 
of Cornwallis at Yorktown, it could not be destroyed or seriously 
shaken in its control of the North Atlantic. Half of Nova Scotia 
was a peninsula; and the coming and going of British troops 
between Halifax and 'the continent', as the other provinces were 
usually termed, went on almost uninterruptedly. During the early 
years of the war 'O'Brien's gang' and swarms of other privateers 
played havoc with sea-coast settlements, frequently visiting the 
penalties of 'non-intercourse' upon friends and foes alike. In 
time the balance was effectively reversed by a few frigates in the 
Bay of Fundy, and by British posts at Castine on the Penobscot 
and at Fort Howe at the mouth of the St. John. Thus the brief 

1 A. Series, 94. 180. 


siege of Fort Cumberland in November, 1776, was finally raised 
by a body of marines who marched north from Windsor. Even 
had Jonathan Eddy and John Allan succeeded at Cumberland as 
Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold succeeded at Ticonderoga and 
Crown Point, the conquest would have been jeopardized at a 
dozen points on the Atlantic seaboard. None saw this more clearly 
than Washington himself, and it was one of his reasons in 1775 for 
refusing to sanction an invasion of the province. 

A second source of security, however, belongs to another cate- 
gory ; and without it Nova Scotia might conceivably have shared 
the fate of Georgia after Yorktown, or of the hinterlands of the 
Province of Quebec south of the Great Lakes. In 1775 Washington 
wrote that to attack Nova Scotia was 'a measure of conquest rather 
than defence'; and under the conditions which subsequently 
formed the basis of the Franco- Spanish- American alliance, 
Washington's decision in 1775 became doubly conclusive after 
1778. For reasons to be noted in another context, the only basis 
of alliance which could meet Spanish jealousy of the American 
provinces on the Mississippi and American jealousy of French 
power on the St. Lawrence was Vergennes' formula of indepen- 
dence but no conquest. 1 For Quebec, as we shall see, Mont- 
gomery's invasion had preceded the French alliance, and indeed 
had been projected as a measure not of conquest but of defence. 
In any event, justification for a renewed attack might perhaps have 
been found in the fact that the hinterlands north of the Ohio for 
which the British provinces had fought in the Seven Years' War 
had been swept within the boundaries of the new province by the 
Quebec Act of 1774. In the absence of an Assembly, moreover, 
there was no proof forthcoming that claims of popular support in 
Quebec for the revolutionary cause were unfounded. Vergennes' 
formula thus applied only partially to Quebec; and the Quebec 
hinterlands south of the Great Lakes went to the United States at 
the treaty of 1783. 

For Nova Scotia, on the other hand, Vergennes' formula was 
less ambiguous ; for had the Assembly declared in favour of Con- 
gress, or had an Assembly been denied to Nova Scotia as it was 
denied to Quebec after 1769, an invasion of the province or its 
acquisition by diplomacy at the treaty of 1783 might have been 
interpreted as the liberation of an oppressed people seeking 
independence rather than as the conquest of a province which 
1 See Sparks, Writings of George Washington, i. 312 ff. 


had declared in the most solemn manner for the British con- 
nexion. In that sense the attitude of the Nova Scotia Assembly 
may perhaps rank with the important decisions of the war. 
After Legge's recall, at least, the concord within the province 
was such that nothing short of conquest could have changed its 

A third source if not of security during the war at least of 
devotion to the British connexion after the peace is to be found in 
the deluge of loyalist immigration from the older colonies. From 
the evacuation of Boston in March, 1776, to that of New York in 
1783, some 35,000 loyalists found their way to Nova Scotia; with 
results scarcely less distinctive than those which attended the 
earlier migrations from New England. For many of the refugees 
Nova Scotia, as their oppressors derisively predicted, was to mean 
'Nova Scarcity' and destitution. Like the tattered boots in which 
the Rev. Jacob Bailey landed at Halifax, their shattered fortunes 
bore all the 'marks of sedition and independence'; and not all of 
them could command Bailey's grim and steadfast humour. The 
tragic experiences of the Revolution were stamped indelibly into 
the temper of the loyalist settlements. For better or for worse 
the results were traceable on every hand. The fortitude of the 
thousands who grappled with adversity and passed on their in- 
domitable spirit to posterity is perhaps as brave a tradition of 
character and of unconscious heroism as Canadian history has to 
record. On the other hand, where destitution proved too strong 
an adversary, there were tendencies at work to destroy initiative 
and to hasten the easy descent from self-reliance to government 
aid, paternalism, and dependency. 


For the northern part of the province 'the coming of the loyalists' 
marked a new era. More than 10,000 settled on the St. John River, 
and 'the City of the Loyalists', as the city at the mouth of the river 
came to be called, 'was born in a day'. Upon the upper reaches of 
the St. John many of the loyalist regiments of the Revolutionary 
War were to be ranged in blocks of twelve miles on either side of 
the river the Maryland Loyalists, the Royal Guides, the Queen's 
Rangers, the Pennsylvania Loyalists, de Lancey's, Loyal American, 
ist, 2nd, and 3rd New Jersey Volunteers, King's American Dra- 
goons, New York Volunteers, King's Regiment of Foot, Arnold's 
American Legion. Some 2,000 settled on Passamaquoddy Bay, 


and nearly 1,000 in the Cumberland district. 1 The pre-revo- 
lutionary settlements from New England upon the mainland were 
thus completely engulfed in a population which had every incen- 
tive, as William Knox wrote, to be * loyal and abhorrers of Re- 
publicanism'. 2 Within a year of their arrival there were complaints 
of the distances and delays of administration from Halifax. Thinly 
veiled allusions to the ' treasonable practices' among the old settlers 
and the 'prevalence of republican ideas' in the Assembly were 
followed by a demand for the organization of a new province north 
of the Bay of Fundy. 

The uncanny speed with which the British Government seemed 
to comply with this request was not altogether the result of local 
preferences. Before the New Brunswick loyalists had reached 
their destination, Knox had submitted to Lord North a memoran- 
dum for the New Establishments for the American Loyalists. He 
proposed to 

'erect the country from the river St. Croix, to the Gulph of St. Law- 
rence, and from the Line across the Isthmus to the Line of Canada, 
into a new province, placing the seat of Government on the river St. 
John. . . . They will gladly receive a Constitution calculated to cherish 
monarchical principles, and to repress republican ideas, and of a ten- 
dency to bind them to Great Britain ; and it will be the fault of Ad- 
ministration if such a Constitution be not established, as will render 
their union with this country happy and permanent/ 3 

New Brunswick thus became, par excellence, the province of the 
loyalists, with traditions born of an uncompromising and unavail- 
ing struggle. In such an atmosphere not only the sympathies of 
the original New England settlers but all innovations which 
savoured of 'republicanism' or 'democracy' were instinctively sus- 
pect. The first governor, Colonel Thomas Carleton, younger 
brother of Sir Guy Carleton, hoped complacently that with 'better 
habits' than in the older province of Nova Scotia, the New Bruns- 
wick loyalists could be relied upori to counteract 'the American 
spirit of innovation'. 4 Contests between the pre-loyalist 'Whigs' 
the Hazens, the Davidsons, the Simondses and the Dicksons and 
the loyalists are to be found from the first gathering of the New 
Brunswick Assembly in 1786; but the cause of reform which 

1 Raymond, in Canada and its Provinces, xiii, pp. 145, 149, 151. 

2 Knox, New Establishments for the American Loyalists, submitted to Lord 
North in 1783. Extra Official State Papers, ii, Appendix xiv, p. 53. 

Id., ii. 52, 54. 4 Raymond, op. cit., xiii. 158, 162, &c. 


triumphed two generations later in New Brunswick owed less to 
traditions which survived the period of the Revolution than to 
political problems that were indigenous to the new province. 
Never, surely, did the old colonial system receive a fairer trial than 
under the loyalist regime in New Brunswick. No experiment 
could have been devised in which time and place and personnel 
were more auspiciously blended to correct, as Knox himself pre- 
scribed, * those vices which . . . sprung up from the constitution of 
those which have revolted, and occasioned their separation from 
us'. 1 New Brunswick thus began with every predisposition against 
the tendencies which were held to have destroyed the first Empire. 
How inevitable were these tendencies Knox little knew ; for despite 
this tried material, the second Empire, organized at leisure to 
secure 'the permanency of their connection' 2 with Great Britain, 
went step by step the way of the first until it invited the same 

The original province was further dismembered by the estab- 
lishment of a separate government in Cape Breton under a lieut.- 
governor and council without an Assembly. Prince Edward 
Island narrowly escaped the same fate, for the Secretary of State, 
Thomas Townshend, now Baron Sydney, once assured Governor 
Parr that both Cape Breton and 'the Island of St. John (Prince 
Edward Island), after reducing the Civil Establishment of it to a 
parallel with Cape Breton, shall both ... be subordinate to you'. 3 
Thus the old province of 1713 was broken into four unequal and 
dissimilar fragments. Cape Breton was reunited to Nova Scotia 
in 1820 after a generation of petty government during which the 
most valuable resources of the island passed to the control of 
vested interests; but New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and 
Nova Scotia were left to find their way by separate routes to the 
achievement of responsible government and finally into the 
Canadian Confederation. 

How far this disintegration against which recurring move- 
ments for 'Maritime Union' have struggled in vain was the 
result of deliberate policy it is difficult to determine. All the woes 
of the Revolution, it seemed, had sprung from popular Assemblies, 

1 Extra Official State Papers , ii, Appendix xiv, p. 49. 

* Id., p. 47- 

3 Colonial Correspondence, Nova Scotia, 15. 198. The Secretaryship for the 
Colonies and the Board of Trade were both abolished in 1782 by 22 Geo. Ill, 
c. 82. The administration of the colonies was taken over again by the Southern 
Department, now termed the Home Department. Shortt and Doughty, ii. 739 n. 


and particularly from the fact that the disunion among them which 
every observer from Franklin to Shirley had at one time deemed 
an insuperable barrier to colonial co-operation had been overcome 
by the sovereign expedient of a Continental Congress. The only 
settled provinces to remain British, on the other hand, had been 
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island where popular Assemblies 
were still in their primitive stages, and Quebec where there was no 
Assembly whatever. Did the path of safety lie through the con- 
centration of executive authority and the disintegration of popular 
institutions ? When Knox was called upon by Lord North to assist 
in 'framing regulations for our remaining Colonies', he laid it down 
as his first principle that 'the permanency of their connexion with 
this country should ... be the ground of every measure respecting 
our Colonies*. It was part of Knox's original project to erect 
another province, under the name of New Ireland, east of the 
Penobscot River, and yet another separate government on the St. 
Croix. 1 It seems to have been 'the policy of the British Govern- 
ment (Durham afterwards observed) to govern its Colonies by 
means of division, and to break them down as much as possible 
into petty isolated communities, incapable of combination, and 
possessing no sufficient strength for individual resistance to the 
Empire'. 2 

A distinctive interest, however, attaches to the older province of 
Nova Scotia. Here alone pre-revolutionary popular traditions sur- 
vive in some measure without the devastating effects of transplant- 
ing to another soil. 'The American question' as it appeared to the 
Nova Scotia Assembly at the outbreak of the Revolution is never 
solved, and despite the intervening period of reaction, is never 
regarded as solved, until the final achievement of responsible 
government. Among the 20,000 loyalists at Shelburne, at Anna- 
polis, at Halifax, and elsewhere in the peninsula in 1784,3 many 
of the aptitudes which appeared in New Brunswick are clearly 
discernible. Many of the loyalists had 'had enough of Assemblies'. 
The only traditions of self-government that survived among them 
from the thirteen colonies had been torn up by the roots, and it 
required the growth of another season in a new soil before the 
political harvest of the second Empire could reach the maturity of 

1 The former went to the United States by the Treaty of Paris, 1783. Extra 
Official State Papers, ii. 60 n. ; Appendix, xiv, p. 53. 
1 Report, ed. Lucas, ii. 66-7. 
3 Colonial Correspondence, Nova Scotia, 16. 18. 


the first. The fact that the season was inclement beyond all ex- 
pectation delayed the growth but could not repair the tendencies 
which developed two generations later into responsible govern- 

Yet the second Empire began, as we shall see, with many of the 
hardest lessons learnt, and above all with goodwill once more in 
the ascendant. There is a tradition that R. J. Uniacke, whose long 
career as assemblyman, Speaker of the Assembly, and Attorney- 
General, filled the remarkable span of forty-six years from 1784 to 
1830, was once twitted with his association with the 'Cumberland 
rebels' of 1776. He retorted with much truth that the change was 
to be found not in his own views but in the temper of British 
colonial policy. The forms of the Old Colonial System, it is true, 
survived almost intact ; in many respects confirmed rather than 
discredited by disaster. But in Nova Scotia there survived also 
the spirit which had robbed the system of many of its terrors the 
goodwill which Chatham and Burke had invoked in vain for the 
older colonies 'the former unsuspecting confidence of the colonies in 
the Mother Country'. Nowhere were traditional British methods 
of reform more carefully dissociated from violence and revolution 
than in Nova Scotia ; though not without restraint and searchings 
of spirit were they finally vindicated. At the passing of the second 
Empire both the dominant traditions in Nova Scotia were fittingly 
represented. Joseph Howe, the son of a Massachusetts loyalist, 
became the prophet of the new Commonwealth, and James Boyle 
Uniacke, son of the old 'Cumberland rebel', became the first 
premier under responsible government in the British dominions 




To outward appearances the contest with France for domination in 
America closed in a blaze of glory. The prospect of an 'American 
empire' at the close of the Seven Years' War was one which no 
other generation of the British race has ever contemplated. In 
extent of territory it stretched from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf 
of Mexico. It contained some two millions and a half of the most 
resourceful and enterprising settlers in modern history a popu- 
lation which had doubled in twenty years, with every prospect of 
increasing for another generation in the same ratio. So vast were 
the hinterlands and so illimitable the resources that William Knox 
after the Revolution predicted a series of people- wanderings like 
those of the Scythians and Tartars for 4,000 years before the 
'Transallegany mountain people' should be able to found a settled 
state. 1 This was the heritage which British statesmen were privi- 
leged for a little more than ten years to hold and if possible to 

The conquest of New France has been regarded as an epoch in 
the first Empire. It liberated the southern colonies from the 
menace of French power to the north which had always over- 
shadowed their expansion and government. Henceforth a British 
army and even the British navy would have a different meaning for 
colonists in America. With the close of the Seven Years' War also 
came a transformation in British mercantile policy. During the 
decade and a half before the war British exports to the West Indies 
had increased only 10 per cent, to the annual value of 877,571 
while those to the 'continental' colonies had increased by 186 per 
cent, to the annual value of 1,832,948. It was clear that markets 
could be as important as raw materials, and that British settlers in 
America by buying British woollens could be of more value than 
all the tropical products of the Indies. The ascendancy which 
British manufacturers and their natural allies the landed interests 
thus gained over the purely commercial interests of the nation 
culminated, according to Beer, in the decision to retain Quebec at 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 50. 


the Treaty of Paris. It is not flattering to modern Canadian sensi- 
bilities to reflect that the whole of New France was weighed in the 
balance against the little French sugar island of Guadaloupe ; but 
the new province was to be a field where * perpetual Settlement 
and Cultivation ought to be encouraged'. 1 The further pur- 
poses of the British Government are traceable in a great variety 
of official documents, and it must be stated at the outset that there 
is no consciousness of the vexed problem of race as the Revolu- 
tion was soon to leave it, dominating, like a mountain range, the 
length and breadth of Canadian history. 

Quebec was to become part of the 'American empire*. The 
60,000 inhabitants of the new province were to 'become subjects 
of the King' and fellow-subjects with more than forty times that 
number of British subjects already in America. Among the 
questions referred to the Board of Trade by the Secretary for the 
Southern Department was the query 'what Privileges are reserved 
to His Majesty's New Subjects by the Terms of their Capitula- 
tions' and 'how far it is expedient to retain, or depart from the 
Forms of Government which His Most Christian Majesty had 
established in those Colonies'/* 'The free exercise of their religion* 
was guaranteed to the Canadians in the capitulation of Montreal, 
but it was made clear that 'the obligation of paying the tithes . . . 
will depend on the King's pleasure', while at the Treaty of Paris 
privileges in religion were granted only 'as far as the laws of Great 
Britain permit'. The French plenipotentiaries 'proposed to insert 
the Words comme ci-devant, in order that the Romish Religion 
should continue to be exercised in the same manner as under their 
Government', but they were 'plainly told that it would be deceiving 
them to admit those Words'. The demand at the capitulation of 
Montreal that 'the French and Canadians shall continue to be 
governed according to the custom of Paris, and the Laws and 
Usages established for this country' was refused with the signifi- 
cant reply that 'They become subjects of the King'J 

Thus while the present prescriptive rights of Canadians of 
French origin are not less sacred in the Dominion than treaty 
rights or fundamental law of other nations they are not to be 
found in the policy contemplated for Quebec in 1763. Despite 

1 Beer, op. cit., p. 139; Grant, Canada versus Guadaloupe, Amer. Hist. Rev., 
July, 1912; Lords of Trade to Egremont, June 8, 1763, Shortt and Doughty, i. 
140. Egremont to Lords of Trade, May 5, 1763, id., i. 128. 

3 Id., i. 30; id., i. 115; Egremont to Murray, Aug. 13, 1763, id., i. 169; iW., 


three rapid changes of ministry the measures for the government 
of the new province were drafted by the Board of Trade after 
'most serious Consideration*. The Board itself still bore the stamp 
of Halifax's brilliant reorganization of that much-maligned body, 
and Halifax himself was now in control at the Southern Depart- 
ment. John Pownall, the indefatigable Secretary of the Board, 
whose influence had sometimes been all-powerful during the 
Halifax regime, was now, after a brief leave of absence with Halifax 
in Ireland, back again at his old office. Hillsborough, another of 
Halifax's staff in Ireland, was at the head of the Board. It was 
under Halifax's own instructions of September 19, 1763, that the 
Board undertook to 'declare the Constitution of the new Govern- 
ments, as established for the present, & intended in future'. 1 'The 
form', writes Dr. Alvord, 'was undoubtedly due to the influence 
of PownalP, and the final policy was 'due to Lord Halifax'. 2 For 
Quebec as for Nova Scotia it is reasonable to suppose that Shirley's 
'Great Plan' was again in the ascendant. In the early reports and 
correspondence of the Board, in the resulting Order in Council, in 
the Proclamation of October 7, 1763, issued by Halifax himself 
the constitution of Quebec until the Quebec Act in the Com- 
mission to Governor Murray, in the elaborate Instructions which 
followed, in the Commission to Carleton as governor in 1768, in 
the Report of the Board of Trade in 1765, and above all in the 
incisive Report of 1769, next to the Quebec Act itself perhaps the 
most important document of the period in Canadian history, one 
searches in vain for any official departure from the recognized 
forms and functions of British colonial government in North 


During the debates on the Quebec Act the attempt was made to 
attribute the policy of 1763 to haste and inadvertence. Evidence to 
the contrary is to be found in a score of documents of every degree 
of historical conclusiveness. 

Prevailing conceptions in the mercantile system were of course 
taken for granted. The Board advised the 'secure settling' of the 
country either by European emigration 'or from the Overflowing 
of Your Majesty's ancient Colonies'. Among all the conquests of 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 127-63. The Proclamation of Oct. 7, 1763, the 
Commission to Murray, Nov. 21, 1763, and the Instructions of Dec. 7, 1763, 
were all drafted in detail by the Board of Trade. Id., i. 154. 

2 The Mississippi Valley in British Politics, Cleveland, 1917, pp. 201 n., 199. 


the Seven Years' War Canada was placed first among the * Places 
where Planting, and perpetual Settlement and Cultivation ought 
to be encouraged and consequently where regular Forms of 
Government must immediately be established'. In the formal 
Instructions to Murray no fewer than sixteen sections relate to the 
Advantageous and effectual Settlement' of the new province. The 
governor was instructed, no doubt with Lawrence's experience in 
Nova Scotia in mind, to invite British settlement by * Proclamation 
in all tlie Colonies in North America'. 1 

Nowhere was the incorporation of Quebec into the old colonial 
system more clearly foreshadowed than in the proposed form of 
government. Variations in law and legal practice were of course 
taken for granted. Hillsborough afterwards stated that 'it never 
entered into Our Idea to overturn the Laws and Customs of 
Canada, with regard to Property', though justice was to be ad- 
ministered 'according to the Laws of England'. 2 With regard to 
franchise and legal rights the law officers of the Crown decided 
from the outset that Roman Catholics were 'not subject, in those 
Colonies, to the Incapacities, disabilities, and Penalties, to which 
Roman Catholics in this Kingdom are subject by the Laws there- 
of'. 3 In truth neither law nor religion was vitally related to the 
issues that were already overshadowing the whole problem of 
colonial government in America. Boundaries and Indian policy 
were more significant. But the form of government itself was 
fundamental. From the decision in Nova Scotia in 1756 to the 
great Report of 1769 there is no deviation here in the deliberate 
policy of the Board. In the end, as we shall see, their insistency 
was such that the whole problem of government for Quebec was 
summarily removed from their hands and dealt with as 'a matter 
of State Polities' at the most critical stage of the American Revo- 

Traditions of arbitrary governance in Quebec were not unknown 
either to the Board or to the American colonies. In 1754 Benjamin 
Franklin objected to Shirley's scheme of a Commander-in-Chief 
and Council for America because such a system 'would put them 
on a Footing with the Subjects of France in Canada. ... If the 

1 Report on Acquisitions in America, June 8, 1763, Shortt and Doughty, i. 132- 
47. The report is signed by eight members of the Board, including Shelburne, 
Soame Jenyns, John Yorke, Orwell, and Bamber Gascoyne. Instructions, ss. 
44-59, id. y i. 194-9. Id., i. 199. * Id., i. 297. 

3 Report of Atty. and Sol. Gen. re Status of Roman Catholic Subjects, June 10, 
1765, Shortt and Doughty, i. 236. 

34" O 


Colonies in a Body may be well governed by Governors and 
Councils, appointed by the Crown, without .Representatives, par- 
ticular Colonies may as well or better be so governed'. 1 It is true 
that Murray during the military occupation of Quebec had op- 
posed an Assembly, 2 but this was not the first record of a military 
governor's distaste for the 'heats, Animosities and disunion' 
usually associated with representative institutions. More than one 
indulgent member of the Board must have recalled the instructions 
to Governor Lawrence in Nova Scotia in 1758. Thus the Board 
of Trade, after nearly five months' deliberation and two preliminary 
reports, placed in the hands of Lord Halifax, who had himself 
presided over the Board in 1758, the instruments which formed 
the constitution of Quebec until the Quebec Act. And since it 
would 'give Confidence and Encouragement (they added), to such 
Persons as are inclined to become Settlers in the new Colonies, 
That an immediate and public Declaration should be made of the 
intended permanent Constitution and that the power of calling 
Assemblies should be inserted in the first Commissions, We have 
therefore drawn the Proclamation agreeable to this Opinion, and 
have prepared the Commissions accordingly'. 3 


In Proclamation, Commission, and Instructions accordingly the 
'intended permanent Constitution' is outlined in ascending degrees 
of incisiveness. The first of these, in the interests of 'speedy 
settling', established the normal type of 'royal' province: 

'We have, in the Letters Patent under our Great Seal of Great Britain, 
by which the said Governments are constituted, given express Power 
and Direction to our Governors of our Said Colonies respectively, 
that so soon as the state and circumstances of the said Colonies will 
admit thereof, they shall, with the Advice and Consent of the Mem- 
bers of our Council, summon and call General Assemblies ... in such 
Manner and Form as is used and directed in those Colonies and 
Provinces in America which are uncler our immediate Government.' 4 

Murray's Commission, drafted by the Board in complete accord 
with the Proclamation, contained the same provisions for a repre- 
sentative Assembly which had forced the summoning of the Nova 
Scotia Assembly in 1758.5 At the time of the Quebec Act the 

1 Shirley Correspondence, ii. 105. a Pub. Arch. Can., Q. Series, i. 23. 

3 Oct. 4, 1763, Shortt and Doughty , i. 156. 

4 Id. t i. 165. 5 Id., i. 175. 


Advocate-General, James Marriott, suggested that these provisions 
were applied to Quebec, 'inadvertently, and in the hurry of office 1 . 1 
It is impossible to suppose that the Board of Trade which drafted 
them, or Lord Halifax who carried them into execution, could have 
been ignorant of the principles which both had been at such pains 
to enforce against Governor Lawrence's scruples in Nova Scotia. 
It had then been agreed that 'the Governor & Council alone are 
not Authorized ... to make Laws', and that neither the governor's 
objections nor 'any other Reason can justify the Continuation of 
the Exercise of an illegal Authority'. The truth was, as Lord 
Mansfield stated in the case of Campbell v. Hall in 1774, that by the 
Proclamation and Commission 'the King had immediately and 
irrevocably granted' an Assembly 'in like manner as in the other 
provinces under the King'. 2 

And finally the Instructions were perhaps the most insistent of 
all. Here alone the Board had provided for the necessary interval 
pending the summoning of an Assembly. The governor and 
council were expressly forbidden to pass any ordinance 'that shall 
any ways tend to affect the Life, Limb or Liberty of the Subject, or 
to the imposing any Duties or Taxes' ; and since by his Commission 
the governor was to 'summon and call a General Assembly' he was 
to 'give all possible attention to the carrying this important Object 
into Execution'. No fewer than twelve paragraphs of the In- 
structions relate to 'tacking', to 'the sole framing of Money Bills', 
and to other tendencies of Assemblies in the 'royal' provinces. It 
came to pass that more than one ordinance of Murray and his 
council had to be disallowed 'from a consideration of the Want of 
a due authority to enact them'. As late as 1769 the Board was 
ready to stake its own existence upon the summoning of an 
Assembly 'for the establishment of which it is humbly conceived 
the Faith of the Crown stands fully pledged'.} 

It is a remarkable fact that for eleven years no attempt was made 
to call an Assembly in Quebec. At the end of that period the con- 
stitution of 1763 was altogether abrogated. It required nothing 
short of the highest legislative authority of the Empire, an Act of 
Parliament, to effect this. For the first time 'since the Constitution 
of this Country has been restored to its true Principles', 4 the 
Quebec Act formally dispensed with an Assembly and vested legis- 
lative authority in a governor and council. So complete a reversal 

1 Id., i. 449. * See above, pp. 68, 70. Shortt and Doughty, i. 531. 

3 Id., i. 185 ff. ; 381. < Nova Scotia, A. Series, 59. 22. 


of policy would have been remarkable even had it been the result 
of gradual and spontaneous conviction. But the reversal was 
effected within a much shorter period between the Report of the 
Board of Trade in 1769 and the Quebec Act. It thus synchronized 
with the most critical period of the American Revolution, and it is 
safe to say that neither the purposes nor the results of the measure 
are to be found altogether within the orbit of purely Canadian 



The problems of civil government in Quebec were not unlike 
those of Governor Lawrence in Nova Scotia, which had been 
commended for Murray's guidance, or those of Governor Melville 
in the conquered French islands of Grenada which like Quebec 
had been created a 'royal' province by the same Proclamation. 
In neither the older province nor the new, however, were the 
immediate difficulties so formidable. 

In Nova Scotia the problem of 10,000 implacable Acadians had 
been complicated by the German Protestants of Lunenburg and 
by the proximity of Louisbourg; but the Seven Years' War had 
closed with Cape Breton in British possession, with the Acadians 
in exile, and with an influx of New England immigration which 
completely transformed the political outlook of the province. The 
primitive stages of self-government thus passed with every promise 
of progress and harmony. Grenada was perhaps a closer parallel. 
As in Quebec the basic population was French. In both cases the 
Crown, by the same Proclamation, 'had immediately and irre- 
vocably' granted an Assembly 'in like manner as in the other 
provinces under the King'. In the opinion of Yorke, then Attorney- 
General, the oath required of Roman Catholics there was 'matter 
of political judgment . . . the statute does not apply to them'. 'An 
assembly was at once established . . . all the French freeholders 
were allowed to vote and, catholics though they were, to sit and 
hold office'. 1 

The technical difficulties in Quebec, therefore, were not for- 
midable. The policy of the Board had already been vindicated, as 
we have seen, by the law officers of the Crown: 'His Majesty's 
Roman Catholick Subjects . . . are not subject, in those Colonies, 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 267 n. Higham, The General Assembly of the Leeward 
Islands , Eng. Hist. Rev. t July, 1926, p. 367. 


to the Incapacities, disabilities, and Penalties, to which Roman 
Catholicks in this Kingdom are subject by the Laws thereof. The 
Board of Trade, now under Dartmouth himself sponsor of the 
Quebec Act nine years later prescribed an Assembly for Quebec, 
with a franchise to include 'all the Inhabitants . . . seeing that 
we know of no Law by which Roman Catholicks, as such, are dis- 
qualified from being Electors'. 1 

Other difficulties, however, were less tractable. The preponder- 
ance of the French in numbers was overwhelming even the 
British petitioners for an Assembly at the time of the Quebec Act 
conceded that they numbered 75,000 while the British or * ancient 
subjects' numbered but 3,000, exclusive of traders in the 'up- 
country' and the fishing population on the Gulf. 2 At the beginning 
of civil government their numbers were estimated by Murray at 
a few hundreds, and from their relations with the governor it is 
easy to surmise why the instructions for the encouragement of 
further immigration by 'Proclamation in all the Colonies in North 
America' remained unavailing. 3 

It would seem from Murray's caustic references to the mer- 
chants in his letters to some of his patrons, and from his defence 
after his recall, that the chief causes of disagreement were religious. 
'He could not be prevailed upon to persecute his Majesty's Roman 
catholic subjects in Canada'. The British traders were 'Licentious 
Fanaticks' who sought nothing less than 'the expulsion of the 
Canadians'. They were a set of 'cruel, Ignorant, rapacious Fana- 
tics', made up of 'Quakers Puritants, Anabaptists, Presbeterians, 
Atheists, Infidels, and even the Jews', all bent upon preventing 
'any Consideration being paid to the Poor Canadians'. 4 

But it is impossible to account for the relations between Murray 
and the merchants upon the basis merely of toleration on the one 
side and intolerance on the other. Murray's broadmindedness in 

1 Norton and de Grey, Lincoln's Inn, June 10, 1765, Shortt and Doughty, 
i. 236. Sept. 2, 1765, id., i. 248. 

2 Petition to the Commons, Nov. 12, 1774, id., i. 593. The Petition of Dec. 31, 
1773, however, claimed that several of the British 'possess the largest and best 
cultivated Seigniorys in the Province' and that their personal Estates by far 
exceed those of the new Subjects.' Id., i. 500. Four-fifths of the total trade of 
the province was also said to be in their hands. Id., i. 592. 

3 A Proclamation, Mar. i, 1765, was published in the Quebec Gazette on 
Mar. 7, 1765, but with no reference, as in Lawrence's Proclamations, to the 
form of government. Report, Pub. Arch., 1918, Appendix C, 3 ff. 

4 Murray to Eglinton, Oct. 27, 1764, Pub. Arch. Can., Murray Papers, i. 170; 
Murray's Memorandum in reply to the charges against him, id., iii. 21 1 ff. ; 
Murray to Lords of Trade, Oct. 29, 1764, Shortt and Doughty, i. 231. 


matters of race and religion reflects imperishable credit upon his 
own name and upon his office. But the British traders themselves 
sought the franchise for the French- Canadians for the first time 
on record 'without burdening them with such Oaths as in their 
present mode of thinking they cannot conscientiously take' ; l while 
they accused Murray himself of fomenting racial and religious dis- 
cord. 'Instead of promoting Harmony and an Union between His 
Majesty's British and Canadian Born Subjects, to which both 
parties were inclined, the whole Tenor of his Policy and. Conduct 
has been to kindle Animositys, and to raise jealousies among them, 
and to keep them Disunited'. 2 It must be conceded that there is 
enough evidence to give some colour to this charge. 3 


In truth less praiseworthy differences are not far to seek, and 
to these Murray's recall was undoubtedly due. The governor's 
patrons were Lord Bute, James Oswald, Lord Eglinton, and 'the 
King's friends'; and his term of office was filled with a desperate 
attempt to keep his footing in the slippery by-ways of political 
patronage. With the passing of Bute's ascendancy Murray found 
himself everywhere in conflict with the opposite faction : with General 
Gage who after commanding at Montreal was made Commander- 
in-Chief in America, and with General Burton who succeeded to the 
command at Montreal. The full implications of the new imperial 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 234. This petition was drawn up more than a year 
before the Board of Trade formally recommended the same measure, and before 
the opinion of the law officers of the Crown could have been known in Quebec. 

2 Murray's Memorandum in reply to the charges against him, Article u, 
Murray Papers, iii. 238. 

3 Cf. Murray to Halifax, June 26, 1764: 'Several from New England now 
established here are most inveterate Fanaticks, a little address however may 
make even them of advantage, a proper conviction of their insults will gain and 
strengthen the confidence of the Canadians to Government which confidence 
being the Main Spring must be perpetually kept in order and cannot fail of 
perfecting the Business I charge myself with which is no less then (sic) the 
reformation of the greatest part of the inhabitants of this Colony. I shall not 
at present enter into a detail of my project.' 

Murray's 'project' was based largely upon the co-operation of the notorious 
renegade Jesuit, Roubaud. Murray Papers, i. 139. 

Even Murray's ordinance admitting French jurors and barristers to the Court 
of Common Pleas was overruled by additional royal instructions not because it 
extended privileges to the Roman Catholics, but because it tended to 'restrain Our 
Canadian Subjects in those Privileges they are entitled to enjoy in common with 
our Natural born Subjects' in every court in the province. Shortt and Doughty, 
i. 247, n. 2. Cf. Report of the Board of Trade, Sept. 2, 1765 : 'This Distinction 
and Exclusion seem to us to be as inconsistent with true Policy, as it is un- 
warrantable upon the Principles of Law and Equity/ Id., i. 241. 


policy in America scarcely appeared above the northern horizon ; 
but finding himself as civil governor * degraded from the Profession 
of Arms', Murray spent the best energies of a fiery and impulsive 
temper in a vain attempt to retain his military command. 1 

Murray's relations with Burton thus developed into a deadly 
feud in which the most incongruous allies were sought on both 
sides: by Murray in Thomas Walker (of talker's ear' fame) and 
a few of the Montreal merchants against Burton, and by Burton 
still more successfully in the Quebec merchants against Murray. 2 
The governor wrote to Montreal that 'the poor Mercantile Devils 
at your place have been hardly dealt by'. Burton returned the 
compliment by inspecting the garrison at Quebec with studied 
affronts to the civil governor, and a 'huge entertainment for the 
Malcontents'. Wagers were laid in public upon the governor's 
recall. Murray ruefully assured his patrons that he was struggling 
manfully against his 'natural vivacity' of spirits, while his enemies 
were being encouraged from home 'with a View to make an Ex- 
plosion of my Temper'. 3 But the friction between Murray and the 
merchants was older than the feud with Burton. It was part of a 
chronic conflict which was to be found in Halifax and Boston and 
Philadelphia as well as in Quebec ; and it was this undercurrent 
which eventually dragged the governor down and led, by methods 
that are not pleasant to reflect upon, to his recall. 

On both sides the quarrel was instinctive, and it had begun long 
before Murray found himself 'degraded from the Profession of 
Arms' by promotion to civil government. The 'new subjects' had 
found in Murray's military regime 'all the justice that we could 
have expected from the most enlightened jurists'. The 'ancient 
subjects 'were not so easily satisfied. They submitted, 'hoping Time 

1 Murray to Halifax, Oct. 15, 1764, Shortt and Doughty, i. 211. 'Mr. Gage 
and Mr. Burton have long been ploting to ruin me, this mine they have Sprung 
is the most extraordinary thing which ever happened ... to turn me out of the 
Army. ... If ... You find that His Majesty has come to a Resolution to allow 
no Civil Governor to have any Military Command, for God sake get me as 
handsomely out of this Civil Embrassement as possible. The Government 
of the Province will be a good thing for some dependent of the Ministers, and 
I am ready to resign it for an Old Regiment.* Murray to Oswald, Oct. 16, 1764, 
Murray Papers, i. 164. 

3 'Walker and Knipe have been here. ... I have had much Conversation, and 
if any Confidence may be put in them we may hope to find the People at Montreal 
very tractable: to contribute to it I have made Walker and Knipe Justices of 
the Peace, the first is certainly a sensible Man.' Murray Papers, i. 203. 

3 Murray to Oswald, Nov. n, 1765, id., i. 276; id., i. 265, 289, &c. Cf. 
Memorials of Rt. Hon. James Oswald, Edinburgh, 1825, p. 347. 


with a Civil Establishment would remedy this Evil'. Murray after- 
wards acknowledged he had * often severely repremanded some of 
the traders'; and the traders in due time charged Murray with 'a 
Rage and Rudeness of Language and Demeanour'. 1 With civil 
government after the peace, it was not long before there was 'the 
greatest Enmity raging between the Troops and the Inhabitants'. 
In Montreal Thomas Walker, who had made himself particularly 
obnoxious to the troops, was assaulted in his own house by masked 
men 2 who flogged him in the presence of his family and cut off one 
of his ears. When the trials were transferred to Quebec and failed 
to produce a conviction, the utterly false inference was drawn 
that the governor had taken the offenders under his protection. 
Walker's ear, like Jenkyns's and Prynne's before him, proved 
more potent than the head to which it belonged. The incident was 
soon known from Quebec to Georgia. Daniel Dulany, afterwards 
a loyalist at the Revolution, asked if the new standing army in 
America was ' to be employed in the national Service of Cropping 
the Ears, and Slitting the Nostrils of the civil magistrates, as marks 
of Distinction'. 3 

Murray's scorn for 'contemptible subtlers' was repaid by a 
stubborn and inveterate hostility, and neither side emerged from 
the conflict with dignity. A month after the establishment of civil 
courts by the ordinance of September 17, 1764, the grand jury of 
Quebec made the egregious presentment which Murray never 
ceased to cite against his enemies, and which the Board of Trade 
justly stigmatized as 'indecent, unprecedented and unconstitu- 
tional'. 4 The demands ranged from the 'due observance of the 
Sabbath' and the inspection of public accounts 'at least twice a 
year' by the grand jury, to the exclusion of Roman Catholics from 
juries and 'Gentlemen of the Army' from 'exercising any Judicial 
Authority'. The last were added in a postscript from which the 
names of the seven French members of the grand jury were 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 227. Murray Papers, iii. 211, in reply to Article 8; 
Shortt and Doughty, i. 233. 

1 See The Mystery of Walker's Ear, by Professor Burt, in Can. Hist. Rev., 
Sept. 1922, pp. 233-55. 

3 Walker, in fact, had been Murray's protege*. The case was taken to Quebec, 
as Murray stated, by 'Mr. Walker's own Obstinency (in demanding a Protestant 
jury) and the Intrigues practised upon him by Cunningham the Attorney'. 
Murray Papers, iii. 21 1. Dulany's footnote: 'See the Narrative of the Outrages 
committed by the Soldiery on Mr. Justice Walker in Canada.' Considerations on 
the Propriety of imposing Taxes in the British Colonies, London (reprinted), 1766, 
p. 59. 4 Shortt and Doughty, i. 246. 


significantly omitted. The French jurors thereupon disclaimed 
responsibility, and a petition to the King was promoted with the 
governor's approval, attributing the action of the British jurors to 
'the base anxiety for their own interests'. The petitioners had no 
doubt of 'the Beneficence of the Government ... if Messrs, the 
English jurors were as submissive to the wise decisions of the 
Governor and his Council, as we are'. 1 


Murray would scarcely have been flesh and blood had he not 
seized this opportunity of discrediting his 'factious and licentious' 
critics. But when the inevitable petition for Murray's recall was 
drawn up by the Quebec traders and their patrons in London, it 
was found to be a much more formidable document than the crude 
findings of the grand jury. In addition to complaints of 'Rage and 
Rudeness of Language and Demeanour', they charged the gover- 
nor with 'flagrant Partialities, by fomenting Parties and taking 
measures to keep your Majesty's old and new Subjects divided'. 
They prayed for an Assembly 'exclusive of Military Officers', and 
a 'Governor over us, acquainted with other maxims of Government 
than Military only'. 2 In the background, beyond a doubt, uglier 
rumours of irregular duties and captured French brandies were 
insidiously circulated in London by Fowler Walker, the self- 
accredited agent of the province. In vain Murray sent Panet, one 
of his French-Canadian proteges, and his 'Bosom friend Cramahe' 
upon a confidential mission to Bute and Hillsborough and Knox 
to counteract 'the Intrigues of Brigadiers, Judges, Laweyers & 
Fanatics' against him. 3 

Murray was recalled in 1766, but the charges were never tried. 
He left behind him in Canada a reputation which does him credit, 

1 See, however, the explanation of the Protestant jurors in Shortt and 
Doughty, i. 215. Id., i. 229. 2 Id., i. 232 ff. 

3 Murray to his brother, the Master of Elibank, Oct. 27, 1764; to Lord Adam 
Gordon, Oct. 3, 1765; to Ross, his agent, Dec. 4, 1765; Cramahe" to Murray, 
Jan. 12 and Feb. 9, 1765, &c. Murray Papers, i, pp. 172, 247, 289; iii. 255, 
262, &c. 

Murray had disposed of the brandies for 2,400, but the proceeds were re- 
garded as his own perquisites. Cf. Murray to Hon. George Murray, Feb. 23, 
1764 : 'I am determined to do no wrong thing. ... If the king gives me the money 
for which the Stores not Military were sold for, I shall be rich. ... I was given 
to understand, that as I had been the first Military Man, who had ever accounted 
for such things I certainly would not be refused the Demand.' Murray Papers, 
i. 85; iii. 255, &c. 

341* P 


if not as a statesman at least as a man. It is difficult either to credit 
or to debit Murray with a policy in Quebec, since policy implies 
a degree of consistency and discernment which was seldom con- 
spicuous in Murray's conduct. He scorned the trader much as 
Falstaff recognized the true prince by instinct; and his instinct 
carried him perhaps insensibly into a bias on 'the American 
question* which was scarcely less obstructive to sound policy than 
that of Gage in Boston or Legge in Nova Scotia. His position 
was 'very slippery' and he took friends where he could find them. 
Thus in 1762 after nearly three years of military governorship in 
Quebec he reported that the seigneurs were 'extremely vain and 
have an utter contempt for the trading part of the Colony, tho j 
they make no scruple to engage in it, pretty deeply too, whenever a 
convenient opportunity served ; They were great Tyrants to their 
Vassals who seldom met with redress let their grievances be ever 
so just'. Six months later he wrote to Amherst that 'they may 
become very usefull to us if properly managed'. 1 In 1762, the 
habitants, though strong and healthy, virtuous in their morals and 
temperate in their living, were 'extremely ignorant . . . few can 
read or write, and all receive implicitly for truth, the many arrant 
falsehoods and atrocious lies industriously handed among them*. 
Two years later Murray predicted that if indulged with a few 
privileges denied to Roman Catholics at home they could 'become 
the most faithful and most useful set of Men in this American 
Empire'. 2 



The measure by which the official British policy for Quebec from 
1763 to 1769 was formally reversed passed the British Parliament in 
an interval of political twilight fitfully illuminated by flashes of the 
coming storm. If ministerial speeches and semi-official polemics 
in 1774 were the only source of information with regard to the 
origin and purposes of the Quebec Act, it would be hard to find a 
measure more severely local in its scope or more benevolently dis- 
interested in its aim. In addition to this there have been far-reach- 
ing results from the Act which have wielded in Canadian traditions 
all the force of fixed ideas. By a devoted race and an historic 
church in Canada the Quebec Act is justly cherished, in the words 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 79. Murray Papers, i. 33. 
7 Shortt and Doughty, i. 79, 80, 231. 


of Bourinot, as 'the charter of the special privileges which the 
French- Canadians have enjoyed ever since' a 'Sacred Charter, 
granted by the King in Parliament to the Canadians as a Security 
for their Religion, Laws and Property'. 1 Other prepossessions 
have arisen from less authentic sources the British traditions of 
the Revolutionary War where the Quebec Act is associated with the 
dauntless spirit of Carleton in the defence of Canada; or the 
loyalist traditions which have drawn a curtain across Canadian 
history "at the Revolution, leaving the Quebec Act almost as far 
removed from its real context as though the thirteen colonies of 
the first Empire had belonged to another hemisphere. 

The official defence of the Quebec Act fell to William Knox, 
whose intimate and confidential relations with Grenville, with 
Hillsborough, with Dartmouth, and afterwards with Germain, and 
North himself, made him, as Knox says of himself, 'a principal 
actor in the executive Government' 'the most important of all 
the subordinate offices of the State' during the most critical 
stages of the American Revolution. 2 In the Thoughts on the Act 
for making more Efficient Provision for the Government of the 
Province of Quebec, and in a special and more guarded plea, The 
Justice and Policy of the Late Act of Parliament . . . Asserted and 
Proved, the Quebec Act appears as a measure of 'benevolence and 
humanity', of 'lenity and indulgence', framed upon 'the strictest 
principles of justice and humanity'. Oppression had been disas- 
trous for Ireland. 'The effects of lenity' were now to be tried in 

It is not easy to fit King George III into this picture with the 
'four intolerable Acts' of the same session against the American 
colonies. Nor is it easy to recognize among the prophets of 'lenity 
and indulgence', the Solicitor-General, Wedderburn, who as Lord 
Loughborough in 1801 was so largely responsible for the King's 
stubborn refusal to implement Pitt's solemn promises to the 
Roman Catholics at the Irish Union. Perhaps it would be easier 
to credit Knox himself with 'benevolence and humanity' were it 
not that both his pamphlets in 1774 contain veins of vastly different 
matter, while his Extra Official State Papers published in 1789 

1 Haldimand to Germain, Oct. 25, 1780, id., ii. 720. 

Extra Official State Papers, ii. 3 ; i. 19. Knox 'served as Under Secretary 
to every Secretary of State that has filled the American department, from its 
institution to its suppression* in 1782. Id., i. 34. 

3 The Justice and Policy (London, 1774), pp. 29, 28; Thoughts on the Act 
(London, 1774), p. 32. 


disclose still further the hidden principles of American policy 

which could not be avowed in 1774. 

The apparent neatness and dispatch of French colonial govern- 
ment had always possessed a fascination for governors and a haunt- 
ing menace for the northern colonies in America : 

'The government of the French colonies (says Knox) particularly 
deserves our attention, and is worthy of our imitation ; they take every 
precaution of a wise and prudent nation, to secure good order and 
government; a governor is appointed with a proper po,wer, and a 
council established to give him assistance, as well as to guard the 
rights of the crown. . . . Without any of those pompous ideas of popu- 
lar governments, which our countrymen are elated with, the people 
are happy. . . . Happy would it be for this kingdom, were such plans 
adopted for the government of our colonies, instead of that disorder 
and anarchy, that almost universally reigns in them. . . . 

The noble personages who planned this bill, warily considered these 
material points; and in giving them a government, had the view of 
making a great and flourishing body of people happy; instead of 
creating in them a power of destroying their peace and tranquility. . . . 

By giving the Canadians an assembly, we give them a power to 
oppose our own, we put in their hands a sword, that like the Bosto- 
nians they in turn may brandish (it) and put us at defiance/ 1 

Of all the provinces of the first Empire, Quebec alone met with 
Knox's approval. In 1774 he was convinced that if an Assembly 
were granted to Quebec 'in time Canada would be as over-run 
with patriots as Boston. . . . The northern colonies would have 
experienced a much greater degree of felicity, had their govern- 
ment consisted only of a governor and council'. In 1789, on the 
eve of the Constitutional Act, when at last an Assembly seemed 
inevitable, Knox was still opposed to 'fine spun theories, for 
promoting the happiness of the French Canadians by converting 
them into English Republicans '.* 


But there is a more sinister vein in Knox which makes it difficult 
to avoid 'the imputation of motives' which the official defenders of 
the Quebec Act so sententiously deprecated in I774- 3 The sort of 

1 Thoughts on the Act, pp. 14, 15, 37, &c. 

1 Extra Official State Papers, ii. 20. Thoughts on the Act, p. 13. Extra Official 
State Papers, ii. 6. 

3 In view of 'the considerations upon which that measure appears to be 
founded,' Knox contended in defence of the ministers that 'we have no right 


Justice and Policy which Knox professed for Quebec ill accorded 
with the policy which Knox himself, above all the 'reinvigorated 
officialdom' of that generation, was known to advocate for the 
other colonies in America. The key-note of that policy, from 
beginning to end, was authority vindicated if necessary by coercion. 
When the Stamp Act was repealed Knox anticipated no results 
from America but 'addresses of thanks and measures of rebellion'. 1 
It was Knox speaking ex cathedra who admonished the American 
colonists, as we have seen, in 1769: 

'If you do not avail yourself of the information I have given you, per- 
haps the people of England may be led by it to conceive more justly 
of their Rights, and of your Intentions, than they have hitherto done; 
and may compel you to submit, if they unhappily find no argument 
but force can induce you to obey.' z 

With Grenville's approbation Knox became joint Under Secre- 
tary for the American Department under Hillsborough in July, 
1770. Early in the following month, as we shall see, Carleton who 
had succeeded Murray in Quebec left for London with the chief 
features of the Quebec Act already fixed in his indomitable mind. 
The contrary policy of the Board of Trade in the Report of July, 
1769, over the signature of Hillsborough himself, is heard of no 
more. When the Quebec Bill appeared, Knox himself in The 
Justice and Policy of the Late Act conceded that 'the inducement 
to adopt a plan of lenity and indulgence . . . was greatly heightened 
by a consideration of the avowed purpose of the old colonies to 
oppose the execution of the laws of England, and to deny the 
authority of the supreme legislature'. In the Thoughts on the Late 
Act he dropped less guardedly a hint that the Canadians if attached 
by religious and other privileges 'may be a security against the in- 
surgents of the other parts of America; for in a case of exigency, 
a force can easily be raised from thence'. 3 A less wary apologist, 
though a member of the House, Thomas Bernard, pointed out that 

to suppose their conduct to be governed by sinister or wicked motives.' The 
Justice and Policy of the Late Act, p. 6. 

1 'I was sent for to a meeting of the opposition at Mr. Rigby's . . . the Duke 
of Bedford and several others desired to know my opinion of the effects which 
those Resolutions would produce in America. My answer was in a few words 
addresses of thanks and measures of rebellion. Mr. Grenville smiled and shook 
his head, and Mr. Rigby swore by G-d he thought so, and both wished me a 
good morning.' Extra Official State Papers, ii. 26. 

a The Controversy between Great Britain and her Colonies Reviewed, London, 
1769, pp. 204-5. See above, p. 51. 

3 The Justice and Policy of the Late Act, p. 28. Thoughts on the Late Act, p. 28. 


the Act would provide 'a politic check to the independence of our 
American children 5 *a power of coercion over them'. 1 Sir William 
Meredith, a member of North's administration, while contending 
that the Act was 'consonant to justice, wisdom, benevolence and 
policy' hinted in no uncertain terms at 'the present state of Boston* 
and the possibility of 'a fatal necessity ... to coerce America'. 2 

But it is unnecessary to go so far afield as Knox or Bernard or 
Meredith for the policy behind the Quebec Act. Even had the dis- 
cussions which preceded the Act been as carefully guarded from 
posterity as they were intended to be from that generation 3 the 
correspondence of Carleton himself would be found to reveal the 
truth : sometimes with a suggestive wariness of phrase which that 
doughty champion found it necessary to use with a Shelburne or 
a Burgoyne, but usually when 'among friends' with a directness 
which became him like the scarlet of his soldier's uniform. 

Whatever may have been the faults of Guy Carleton indecision 
was not one of them. At a period of grave and justifiable perplexity 
he had the signal virtue of knowing his own mind ; and like the 
enfant terrible of the piece he sometimes declared it with a vigour 
disconcerting alike to his enemies and to his friends. Murray may 
have acted by instinct rather than by reasoned policy. There can 
be no doubt that his successor acted from downright conviction. 
For four years Carleton's policy in Quebec was directed with un- 
wavering aim at one contingency. For four years more he laboured 
in London, by methods which we can only surmise, to impress his 
convictions upon the administration and to overcome the deliberate 
policy of the Board of Trade. When the hour struck it was 
Carleton's policy which prevailed. The contingency which he 

1 An Appeal to the Public Stating and Considering the Objections to the Quebec 
Bill, London, 1774, 54 f. 

3 Letter to the Earl of Chatham on the Quebec Bill, London, 1774, 35 f. This 
pamphlet was generally attributed to Lord Lyttelton, and was quickly reprinted 
in America as A Letter from Thomas, Lord Lyttleton to William Pitt, Earl of 
Chatham, on the Quebec Bill, New York, 1774. It seems clear, however, from 
internal evidence (p. 10) and from A Letter to Sir William Meredith in Answer 
to his late Letter to the Earl of Chatham (London, 1774), p. 21, that Meredith 
was the author. 

3 See Hillsborough to Carleton, Dec. i, 1769, enclosing the Report of the 
Board of Trade, of July, 1769: 'This Report is sent to you in the greatest 
Confidence, and therefore you should be careful not only that no part of it is 
communicated to any other person, but that in conversing upon the subject of 
any Difficulties or Doubts that may arise, you do avoid the Appearance of their 
being other than the Result of your own Reflections ; and I am particularly to 
desire that you will bring back the Copy of the Report with you, without suffer- 
ing it to fall into any other hands whatever.' Shortt and Doughty, i. 377 n. 


foresaw from the beginning was the same which Meredith hinted 
in 1774: 'a fatal necessity ... to coerce America': a contingency 
complicated by the inveterate hostility of France and the presence 
in Quebec of an overwhelmingly French population. Expecting 
this he prepared for it. The Quebec Act was his measure of 
preparation, and he succeeded in 1774 in making it the measure 
of the British Government. The evidence for this is in Carleton's 
own letters, and Carleton himself would have been the last man to 
disavow their obvious import. 


It is possible to find Carleton's convictions on the American 
situation within a few months of his arrival in Quebec and more 
than a year before his formal appointment as Murray's successor. 1 
Up to this point Carleton's training and interests, like his ex- 
perience in America, had been almost exclusively military. His 
earliest role had been cast at Quebec in intimate association with 
Wolfe himself in 1759. His greatest part was yet to be played 
upon the same stage sixteen years later almost the only completely 
successful military role on the British side during the American 
Revolution. At the narrow beginnings of British history in Canada 
Carleton thus stands, like Quebec itself, guarding his charge with 
indomitable resolution. We are here concerned, however, with the 
work not of soldiers but of statesmen, and it becomes evident that 
Carleton's contribution to the gravest political problem that ever 
confronted the nation was the contribution not of the statesman 
but of the soldier. 

In February, 1767, within a few months of Townshend's port 
duties on glass, tea, paints, lead, and paper, Carleton foresaw with 
unerring precision the military implications of British policy to- 
wards the American colonies. In discussing the importance of a 
chain of forts between Quebec and New York Carleton discloses 
in characteristic phrases that repay careful scrutiny the fixed idea 
which seems to have dominated his first administration in Quebec : 

'The more I consider the State of Affairs on this Continent, more and 
stronger Reasons present themselves, and I am the more convinced, 
it is not only expedient, but indispensably necessary for the Interest 

1 Carleton was appointed Lieut. -Governor by Commission of April 7, 1766. 
Murray, though recalled on April i, 1766, remained nominally governor until 
Carleton was formally promoted to that office in 1768. Shortt and Doughty y i. 
276 n. 


of Great Britain and His Majesty's Service, not only to keep these i 
good Repair, but to erect a proper Place of Arms near the Town c 
New York, and a Citadel in or near the Town of Quebec. . . . They wi! 
facilitate the Transport of ten or fifteen thousand Men in the Beginnin 
of a War, from the one to the other, as the Circumstances require. 

The natural and political Situation of the Provinces of Quebec an 
New York is such, as must for ever give them great Influence am 
Weight in the American System, therefore no Pains, Address, no 
Expence too great to root out Faction or Party \ to establish Tran 
quillity, and a firm Attachment to His Majesty's Government, at th 
same time it is equally essential to establish that security and Strengtl 
as can properly curb and overawe, should ever such arise, who by th 
Ties of loyal Subjects and honest Men, are not thoroughly bound t 
their Duty. 

This Communication so established, will give Security to the King* 
Magazines, till then precarious, and doubtful who may avail themselve 
of them ; will separate the Northern from the Southern Colonies, wil 
afford an easy and advantageous Opportunity of transporting Ih 
Forces into any part of this Continent, and may prevent the greatest o 
all Inconveniences, Delay and Loss of Time in the Beginning of < 
War.' ' 

This theme is to be found recurring again and again throughou 
Carleton 's correspondence until the forecast became an accom 
plished fact. Thus in November, 1769, in response to Shelburne'i 
inquiry with regard to 'the right Administration of Governmen 
in Quebec' and 'the Improvement of its Civil Constitution' 
Carleton encloses a copy of the letter to Gage quoted at lengtl 
above, and elaborated it 'with that Candor, which, I think, th< 
King's Service requires'. 'I take it for granted', he observed, 'tha 
the natural Rights of Men, 2 the British Interests on this Continent 
and the securing the King's Dominions over this Province, mus 
ever be the principal Points in View, informing it's Civil Constitution 
and Body of Laws; And that the last, is the Foundation of all 
without which, other schemes can be little better than meer Castles 11 
the Air' Carleton's observations are confined accordingly to the 
military situation. The fortifications at Quebec and Montreal wen 
in ruins. 'The King's old subjects in this Province, supposing then 

1 Carleton to Gage, Feb. 15, 1767, Shortt and Doughty, i. 280. The italic 
are my own. Carleton on his arrival in Quebec had immediately taken sides witl 
the faction against Murray ; his relations with Gage are thus particularly cordia 
and unreserved. Id., i. 277-9. Cf. Murray Papers, iii, pp. 186, 203, 208, &c. 

* Cf. Carleton to Shelburne, Dec. 24, 1767, in which the question is raisec 
how far British laws in Quebec were 'agreeable to the natural Rights of Man 
kind*. Shortt and Doughty, i. 289. 


all willing, might furnish about five hundred Men. . . . The New 
Subjects could send into the Field about eighteen thousand Men. . . . 
As the common People are greatly to be influenced by their 
Seigneurs, I annex a Return of the Noblesse of Canada/ Among 
those who had returned to France were a hundred officers 'all 
ready to be sent back, in Case of a War ... to stir up a People 
accustomed to pay them implicit Obedience'. Those in Canada 
could not be expected to defend a government which had * deprived 
them of their Honors, Privileges, Profits and Laws', and had intro- 
duced instead *a Deluge of new Laws unknown and unpublished*. 

The preponderance of the French in Quebec, moreover, was 
certain to increase rather than diminish, since British settlers 
would normally prefer 'the more chearful Climates, and more 
fruitful Soil of His Majesty's Southern Provinces ... so that, 
barring Catastrophe shocking to think of, this Country must, to the 
end of Time, be peopled by the Canadian Race'. What was this 
'Catastrophe shocking to think of? It could scarcely have been 
war with France, since a victorious France would still have left 
Quebec 'peopled by the Canadian Race'. The fortification of Quebec 
was thus of vital importance: it was 'not only necessary as Matters 
now stand, but supposing the Canadians could be interested to take a 
Part in the Defence of the King's Government, a Change not impossible 
to bring about, yet Time must bring forth Events that will render it 
essentially necessary for the British Interests on this Continent, to 
secure this Port of Communication with the Mother Country ; as 
might easily be proved, were they not too remote for the present 
Purpose'. 1 

Without tracing this theme in detail it will be sufficient to note 
the growing strength of Carleton's convictions and the increasing 
bluntness of his address. To Hillsborough, whose appointment 
as first Secretary for the American Colonies in January, 1768, 
synchronized with his own as full governor of Quebec, Carleton 
could state his views without the necessity of official reserve. The 
letter of November 20, 1 768 , was marked ' Secret Correspondence' : z 

1 Carleton to Shelburne, Secretary for the Southern Department, Nov. 25, 
1767, Shortt and Doughty, i. 281-5. The italics are my own. 

a Nov. 20, 1768, in reply to a letter of May 14 (not preserved in the Q. Series) 
inquiring about reports of an Indian and French revolt to be defeated by fire- 
ships. Carleton had 'not been able to make any discovery, that induces me to 
give credit' to such a plan 'after their experience in fifty-nine/ but 'I can have 
no doubt (he adds) that francc, as soon as determined to begin a war will attempt 
to regain Canada, should it be intended only to make a diversion.' Shortt and 
Doughty, i. 325-7. The italics again are my own. 

34" Q 


* Should France, begin a War in hopes the Brittish-colonies will push 
matters to extremities, and she adopts the project of supporting them 
in their independent notions, Canada, probably, will then become the 
Principal scene, where the fate of America may be determined. . . . Your 
Lordship must immediately perceive the many disadvantages Great 
Britain would labour under in a war of this nature ; and on the other 
hand , how greatly Canada might for ever Support the Brittish interests on 
this Continent, for it is not united in any common principle, interest, or wish 
with the other Provinces, in opposition to the Supreme-seat of Government.'' 

Four months later, for reasons which will appear pnly when 
Carleton's policy in Quebec is brought into juxtaposition with that 
of the Board of Trade in 1769, Carleton requested leave to return 
to England. His influence there for four years is traceable by 
circumstantial rather than by direct evidence, but there can be 
little doubt that Carleton's review of his own policy as late as 1776 
was correct. He refers Germain to the 'letters which lie in your 
Lordships office . . . particularly to one marked secret ... to the 
Earl of Hillsborough ; also of copies of my Letters to General 
Gage*. The letter to Germain is dated September 28, 1776, nearly 
a year and a half after the beginning of open hostility with the 
colonies at Lexington and more than a year and a half before the 
outbreak of war with France. In these dispatches, Carleton ob- 
served, 'and indeed in all my political letters, I had a war of this sort 
constantly in view . . . and have not the least reason to change my 
opinion of these matters'? It would seem to be unnecessary to 
search further for Carleton's dominant motives in the Quebec Act. 
Many years afterwards he wrote that 'the Quebec Bill . . . took 
place at a time, when the Province was too much disturbed by the 
late rebellion to think of anything further than self defence, and 
immediate preservation'.* 


With this basic theme in view the details of Carleton's policy 
in the Quebec Act fall into place with complete unity of purpose. 
By December, 1767, a month after the letter to Shelburne quoted 
above, Carleton is prepared to make a recommendation with regard 
to the laws of the province. It is clear that the first consideration 
here is the position of the seigneurs. The French law upon which 
'their Honors, Property, and Profits, as well as the King's Dues, in 
a great Measure Depended' had one supreme advantage. It had 

1 Shortt and Doughty, ii. 675-6. Italics are my own. 

2 Dorchester to Sydney, June 13, 1787, id., ii. 866. 


'established Subordination, from the first to the lowest . . . and 
secured Obedience to the Supreme Seat of Government from a 
very distant Province'. Carleton advised the repeal of Murray's 
ordinance of September 17, 1764, introducing English law, 'as 
null and void in its own nature, and for the present leave the 
Canadian Laws almost entire'. Accompanying this recommenda- 
tion went the draft of an ordinance to re-establish seigniorial 
tenures of land retroactively 'without Interruption from the Time 
of the Conquest of this Country by the British Arms'. 1 The impli- 
cations of French feudal tenures the oath of the seigneurs, the 
exact accounting for their tenants, the obligation to appear in arms 
for the defence of their sovereign were left to a later dispatch 
which reached England only after Hillsborough had become 
Secretary of State for the Colonies. 2 

When the British Government, bewildered by the absence of 
'any specific or particular proof of any Grievances in Judicature', 
directed the governor, the Chief Justice, William Hey, and the 
Attorney- General, Francis Maseres, to report formally 'whether 
the Canadians in particular are, or think themselves aggrieved', 
Maseres prepared the masterly report which he afterwards pub- 
lished in 1772.3 The vexed legal problem in Quebec lies outside 
the present survey, but Maseres 's report 'had not the good fortune 
to be approved by his excellency. Another report was thereupon 
drawn up by other hands agreeable to the governor's sentiments'. 4 
This report the Government refused, by a vote of eighty-five to 
forty-six, to produce when the Quebec Bill was before the House 
of Commons, 5 and it is clear from Maseres 's criticism at the time 
that Carleton succeeded in overriding both his legal advisers and 
'thought fit to mention only one method of settling the laws of the 
province, which he strongly recommends to his Majesty'. Carle- 
ton's original preference, it is clear, was for French law both 
criminal and civil, as urged by the seigneurs; with the exception, 
however, of 'the use of the Torture & the Punishment of breaking 
on the Wheel', and the addition of the 'Privilege of the Common 

1 Carleton to Shelburne, Dec. 24, 1767, Shortt and Doughty, i. 288-91. Id., 

i. 292-4- 

1 See below, p. 119, and Shortt and Doughty, i. 299-301. 

3 A Collection of Several Commissions, and other Public Instruments, Proceeding 
from his Majesty's Royal Authority, Relating to the Province of Quebec, London, 

1772. See Shortt and Doughty, i. 327-76. 

4 Maseres 's postcript, id., i. 369. 

s Cavendish, Debates on the Quebec Bill, p. 94. 


Law Writof Habeas Corpus' and of trial by jury in capital offences. 1 
Wedderburn and Hey, it seems, were responsible for the preserva- 
tion of English criminal law, 2 but despite a bad half-hour which 
Carleton must have had on this topic at the bar of the House, 
British commercial interests in Quebec passed under the anti- 
quated Coutume de Paris. The French civil law was subject to 
amendment by governor and council under the Quebec Act, but 
even this scanty concession was concealed from the Quebec mer- 
chants, and the governor's Instructions with regard to it were con- 
cealed even from the council. Where this measure of British law 
could give offence, the interests of the seigneurs must indeed have 
been paramount. It is reasonable to suppose that Carleton's en- 
thusiasm for 'the Natural Rights of Men' 'meer Castles in the 
Air' (as that sturdy pragmatist had assured Shelburne) unless the 
King's dominion in Quebec could be secured had less to do with 
the legal provisions of the Quebec Act than the prospect of re- 
establishing 'Subordination from the first to the lowest' and 
'Obedience to the Supreme Seat of Government'. 


Carleton's policy with regard to an Assembly the most revo- 
lutionary phase of the Quebec Act was the counterpart of his 
reliance upon the seigneurs. On one occasion he assured a group 
of petitioners in Quebec that he 'had no Objection to Assemblies 
in General' ; but when they ventured to hope that he had no objec- 
tion to a petition for an Assembly for Quebec in particular, Carle- 
ton replied that he 'had many Objections ... it seldom conveyed 
the sincere Desire of the Subscribers ... it had an Appearance of an 
Intention to take away the Freedom of granting or refusing the 

1 See A Memorandum of things necessary for establishing Laws and Government 
in the Province of Quebec, in Carleton's handwriting in the Dartmouth Papers, 
vii. 2352, Pub. Arch. Can. : 'First, to get rid of the Proclamation of 1763 . . . and 
to restore the old Law and Constitution. . . . 4thly To erect proper Courts of 
Judicature The nearer such Courts are to the Old ones in Form, the more 
agreeable they will be to the Inhabitants ahd more likely to have their Effect. . . . 
6thly To abolish the use of the Torture & the Punishment of breaking upon the 
Wheel. 7thly To allow the Inhabitants the Privilege of the Common Law Writ 
of Habeas Corpus/ &c. 

Cf. the Memorandum of Lotbiniere at the time of the Quebec Act: 'Dans la 
demande qu'ils font de leur loix, il n'est nullement question d'en excepter celles 
qui regardent le criminel.' Shortt and Doughty, i. 562. Cf. also Carleton to 
Dartmouth, June 7, 1775: 'To render the Colony of that Advantage to Great 
Britain, it certainly is capable of, would require the reintroducing the French 
Criminal Law, and all the Powers of it's Government,' Id., ii. 666. 

3 /c/., i. 536 n. 


Request'. 'Tho' I had turned the Matter often in my Thoughts, 
(he continued) I could hit off no Plan that was not liable to many 
Inconveniences, and some Danger; That perhaps they might be 
more fortunate, and I should think myself obliged to them, if they 
would shew me one'. For nearly a year Carleton 'imagined, they 
had laid aside all Thoughts of the Kind', until one of the agitators 
who had formerly kept 'a small Ale House' in the north of Ireland, 
'appearing zealous for the Presbiterian Faith', and having made a 
little money and 'gained some credit among People of his Sort' had 
turned patriot, and with the assistance of others 'egged on by 
Letters from Home' was at work again for an Assembly. 'The 
better Sort of Canadians (added Carleton) fear nothing more than 
popular Assemblies, which, they conceive, tend only to render the 
People refractory and insolent. Inquiring what they thought of 
them, 1 they said, they understood some of our Colonies had fallen 
under the King's Displeasure, owing to the Misconduct of their 
Assemblies, and that they should think themselves unhappy, if 
a like Misfortune befell them.' 

In a more serious vein Carleton recorded his political faith 
without ambiguity : 

'The British Form of Government, transplanted into this Continent, 
never will produce the same Fruits as at Home. ... A popular 
Assembly, which preserves it's full Vigor, and in a Country \vhere all 
Men appear nearly upon a Level, must give a strong Bias to Republi- 
can Principles; Whether the independent Spirit of a Democracy is 
well adapted to a subordinate Government of the British Monarchy, 
or their uncontrolable Notions ought to be encouraged in a Province, 
so lately Conquered, and Circumstanced as this is, I with great 
Humility submit to the Superior Wisdom of His Majesty's Councils.' 2 

If the truth were told of Carleton 's honest conceptions of 
colonial government, even a council was not at all times well 
adapted for 'due subordination'. Upon his arrival at Quebec in 
1766 Carleton had identified himself with the faction hostile to 

1 It must have been a well-informed wag who inquired of Carleton during 
his examination at the bar of the House of Commons during the discussion of 
the Quebec Bill whether 'any pains (had) been taken to explain to such persons 
the excellence of such a constitution, and the advantages that would arise from 
it'. Cavendish, Debates, p. 112. 

2 'For my own part, I shall think myself Fortunate, if I have succeeded in 
rendering clear Objects, not airways discernable at so great a Distance.' Carleton 
to Shelburne, Jan. 20, 1768, Shortt and Doughty, i. 295-6. 

Hillsborough was appointed Secretary for the Colonies the day after this 
letter was written in Quebec. 


Murray by calling them together, as he afterwards explained, 'for 
private Information'. When Col. Aemilius Irving, in the interests 
of harmony, suggested to his fellow- councillors 'that it was acci- 
dent & not Intention', Carleton retorted that it was nothing of the 
sort: 'let him explain his Reasons for so doing, He had no au- 
thority from me-^But that there may be no further Doubt, I 
hereby make known to you, that I both have and will, on all 
Matters which do not require the Consent of Council, call together 
suchCouncellors as I shall think best qualified to give me Informa- 
tion : and further, that I will ask the Advice and Opinion of such 
Persons, tho' not of the Council, as I shall find Men of good Sense, 
Truth, Candor, and Impartial Justice. . . . After I have obtained 
such Advice, I will still direct as to me shall seem best'. 1 

After the Quebec Act Carleton took advantage of the second 
article of his Instructions fixing the quorum of the council at five 
to consult those only whose acquiescence could be relied upon. 2 
Chief Justice Livius thus found himself virtually excluded from 
the council. When he protested, Carleton, whose own angry resig- 
nation had already been accepted by Germain, dismissed him (as 
the Board of Trade afterwards noted) with 'no complaint or impu- 
tation whatever . . . prefer 'd against him in his Judicial Capacity'. 
At the inquiry which Carleton declined to attend, the Board made 
it clear that he had no right 'to select and appoint any such persons 
by name, as he shall think fit to make a Quorum. . . . There does 
not appear to us good and sufficient cause for displacing Mr. 
Livius'. 3 Much could be urged in extenuation of Carleton's con- 
duct, but the governor's reasonableness in interpreting colonial 
government was not unlike Sir Anthony Absolute's : 'no one more 
reasonable, when I am not thwarted ; no one more easily led when 
I have my own way/ 

In truth Carleton's model for Quebec is to be sought far beyond 
the age of Tudor 'conciliar government'. Four months after ad- 
vising Shelburne to 'leave the Canadian Laws almost entire' in 
order to re-establish French feudal tenures in Canada, Carleton 
urged the practical advantages of French feudalism : 

* All the Lands here are held of His Majesty's Castle of St. Lewis, and 

nothing I am persuaded, would be so agreeable to the People, or tend 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 279. 

2 'Acts of Legislation only excepted, (in which case you are not to act without 
a Majority of the whole).' Id., i. 595. 

3 Id., ii. 698-704. See The Tragedy of Chief Justice Livius, by Professor Burt 
in Can. Hist. Rev., Sept., 1924, pp. 196-212. 


more to securing the Allegiance of the New Subjects to His Majesty . . . 
than a formal Requisition of all those immediately holding of the 
King, to pay Faith and Homage to him at his Castle of Lewis ; The 
Oath, which the Vassals take upon the Occasion, is very Solemn and 
Binding, they are obliged to furnish what they here Term their Aveu 
et Denombrement, which is an exact Account of their Tenants and 
Revenues, and to discharge whatever they owe their Sovereign, and 
to appear in Arms for his Defence. . . . 

The Canadian Tenures differ, it is true, from those in the other 
Parts of His Majesty's American Dominions, but if confirmed . . . will 
ever secure a proper Subordination from this Province to Great 
Britain/ * 

The response of the seigneurs to these prospects the habitants 
who did not appear in these calculations unexpectedly developed 
opinions of their own, as Carleton afterwards discovered to his 
cost is to be traced in petitions for the restoration of French law 
and in the memorial of 1773 foreshadowing with suggestive 
accuracy the chief features of the Quebec Act. 'It is easy to see', 
wrote Masres, 'that the foregoing petition . . . has been made the 
foundation of the Act'. It may be, as Professor Kennedy points 
out, that the petition was 'inspired from sources which Maseres's 
Huguenot honesty least suspected'. 2 


Meanwhile the Board of Trade had been wrestling with the 
problem to very different purpose. Whatever doubts may have 
been cited by Murray or Carleton in Quebec it was clear that the 
Board entertained none whatsoever. In a carefully drafted Report 
of September 2, 1765, and in their Representation of the same date, 
the Board reaffirmed 'the form of Government approved and 
Established in 1763 '.3 Murray's 'principal error' had been not 
indulging the French but denying them equal rights 'with the rest 
of His Majesty's Subjects'. The Board knew of 'no Law by which 
Roman Catholicks, as such, are disqualified from being Electors' 
for an Assembly. 

The Instructions to Murray were repeated to Carleton in 

1 Apr. 12, 1768. Shortt and Doughty, i. 299-301. 

z Id., i. 50411. An Account of the Proceedings . . . to obtain a House of 
Assembly, London, 1775, p. 131. The Constitution of Canada, p. 47. 

3 Providing for a 'complete Legislature* and courts as in 'Nova Scotia, the 
situation & Circumstances of which did, at the time of Establishing Courts of 
Justice therein (before the expulsion of the Acadians), bear a near Resemblance 
to the situation & circumstances of Quebec.' Shortt and Doughty, i. 237-48. 


1768, 1 and in the following year a still more insistent Report was 
presented over the signature of Hillsborough himself and six other 
members of the Board. No more deliberate avowal of policy is to 
be found at any stage of this historic controversy. It was made in 
response to a petition of London merchants praying 'that a full 
Legislature may be speedily granted for that Province ; and that a 
number of His Majesty's Roman Catholic Subjects there may be 
admitted into the Council and House of Representatives'. Among 
the appendices of the Report appear no fewer than eighteen docu- 
ments, including Carleton's letters to Shelburne and Hillsborough, 
reports of the Attorney- and Solicitor-General, Carleton's General 
State of the Canadian Noblesse, and his draft ordinance for re- 
establishing French law and feudal tenures in Quebec. The Board 
affirmed that their recommendations were 'founded on the fullest 
Information'; that they were guided 'in those parts, that include 
great constitutional Questions, by the opinions of the ablest 
Lawyers in this Kingdom'; that 'no information necessary in this 
important consideration is wanting', and that 'the subject matter 
has undergone the most mature examination'. Nothing is wanting 
to bring the deliberate policy of the Board of Trade into direct 
juxtaposition with that of Carleton in Quebec. 

The purpose of the Board in 1763 had been 'to extend to his 
Majesty's new Subjects those Privileges, which exist in the 
principles of a British Constitution'. Without such a constitution 
'above eighty thousand brave and loyal Subjects, do. . . . Stand 
prescribed from every privilege, and denied every right, the 
possession of which can alone ensure their affection, and fix their 
attachment to the British Government'. To establish a 'complete 
legislative power' in Quebec it was now necessary to call an 
Assembly to which 'it is humbly conceived the Faith of the Crown 
stands fully pledged'. 

That pledge committed the Board to perhaps the most tolerant 
and generous religious policy s\nce the Reformation. The 'New 
Subjects' were to be admitted not only 'into the Council and House 
of Representatives, but also into the Courts of Judicature, and 
other Offices of Government'. The technicalities which had been 
held to bar Roman Catholics from these rights had already been 
abrogated in Grenada and were known 'both upon Antient pre- 
cedent and late opinion of Law, to be a Matter entirely in His 

1 Cf. ss. 1 1 and 16 of Murray's Instructions with ss. 10 arid 15 of Carleton's. 
d., i. 185, 187, 304, 307. 


Majesty's Discretion'. For the Assembly the franchise was to be 
extended to Protestant and Roman Catholic alike. In order to 
ensure representation of British commercial interests, the trading 
centres of Quebec, Montreal, and Three Rivers were to return 
Protestants only, this plan to be considered 'merely in the light of 
experiment*. Elsewhere Roman Catholics were fully eligible both 
for election and for office. 

With regard to the Courts, the Board urged immediate action 
upon their previous Report of 1765 correcting the aberrations of 
Murray's ordinances. 1 For ecclesiastical affairs the Board drew up 
two series of recommendations which require no comment here 
beyond the fact that provisions 'affecting rights and property' 
were to be left for special legislation. The entire scheme required 
no Act of Parliament but could be put into immediate operation 
by royal prerogative us in other 'royal' provinces like Nova Scotia 
and New Hampshire. In emphasizing their 'most mature examina- 
tion' of the entire problem -'the fullest Information' and the ad- 
vice 'of the ablest Lawyers in this Kingdom' it is clear that the 
Board had more in mind than praise for their own industry. In 
truth the import of Carleton's policy for Quebec was now un- 
mistakable. In a letter which the Board added in an appendix, 
Carleton had already sought permission to 'go Home for a few 
Months' : 

'By being upon the Spot with the King's Servants, I might clear up 
to them many Points, and remove many Difficulties, which, at this 
Distance, can neither be so thoroughly discussed, or perfectly under- 
stood, as is necessary for the King's Service, whose Interests, in 
Regard to the Province, I really believe, I could more effectually 
promote and advance by a Residence of a few Months in London, 
than of so many years in this Country.' 2 

Carleton's uneasiness under the circumstances is easily under- 

1 Id., i. 23746. There was every attempt to safeguard 'any Rights or 
Claims' based upon the French regime: the Board advised that 'the several 
Courts shall admit and be Governed in their proceedings by the French Usages 
and Customs, which heretofore have prevailed in Canada, in respect to such 
property 5 , and that 'to render these Provisions effectual, Care should be taken, 
that not only the Chief Justice, but also the puisne Judges should understand 
the French Language ; and that one of those Judges at least should be well versed 
in the French Customs and Usages above mentioned.' Id., p. 246. 

Hillsborough who had been a member of the Board as early as 1763 wrote in 
1768 : 'I can take upon me to averr, that it never entered into Our Idea to over- 
turn the Laws and Customs of Canada, with Regard to Property.' Shortt and 
Doughty, i. 297. 

3 Appendix No. 18, Shortt and Doughty, i. 392 n., 395. 

34" R 


stood : Hillsborough had informed him that the important business 
of Quebec was 'now drawing near to some conclusion'. 1 But the 
uneasiness of the Board is equally apparent. Perhaps it would have 
been still more so had they known what other influences were 
already in the ascendant against them. As early as March 6, 1768, 
it had fallen to Hillsborough as the new Secretary of the American 
Department, to confirm Carleton's scheme for French law and 
feudal tenures. 'His Majesty approves of every Sentiment.' 
Carleton's draft ordinance 'corresponds in almost every part with 
His Majesty's Opinions'. 2 It was clear that no time was to be lost. 
'However satisfactory it might be', wrote the Board, 'to receive 
Governor Carleton's Sentiments upon many points', there was no 
justification for delay 'in a case of so great Importance, as to 
affect not only the security of this Colony, but with it, that of all 
His Majesty's other Dominions in America'. 

Thus the most generous and comprehensive scheme hitherto 
projected for the government of Quebec was commended to the 
Crown for immediate execution. 



With the Report of July 10, 1769, the curtain falls upon British 
policy in Quebec, and the sequel is largely a matter of reconstruc- 
tion after the fact. The Report of the Board of Trade was sent to 
Carleton under cover of the most carefully guarded secrecy. No 
part of it was to be communicated to any other person. In dis- 
cussing 'any Difficulties or Doubts' he was to 'avoid the Appear- 
ance of their being other than the Result of your own Reflections ; 
and I am particularly to desire (added Hillsborough) that you will 
bring back the Copy of the Report with you, without suffering it 
to fall into any other hands whatever '.3 With the copy of the 
Report went the assurance that no action should be taken without 
Carleton's advice and presence in London. 

Behind Hillsborough, now translated to the inner circles of royal 
influence as the first Secretary of State for the American Depart- 
ment, were already mustering the tacit forces of the Grenville 
tradition. 4 The mantle of Elijah had fallen upon Elisha. It is 
reasonable to suppose that the centre of gravity in colonial affairs 

1 Oct. 12, 1768, Shortt and Doughty, i. 325. * Id. y i. 298. 

3 Id., i. 377, n. i. 4 Cf. Knox's Extra Official State Papers, ii. 39-43. 


was passing from the Board of Trade to the Cabinet and the Crown 
itself, and that the carefully matured policy of the Board was already 
in full retreat before the exigencies of state policy in America. 1 
In 1769, as we have seen, William Knox, Grenville's chief protege, 
had published The Controversy between Great Britain and her 
Colonies Reviewed for the purpose of 'bringing back the Colonies 
to their duty'. 2 In the following July, with Grenville's benediction 
upon him, he was installed as Under Secretary for the American 
Department under Hillsborough, with every mark of mutual 
understanding and confidence. 3 It was in the following month that 
Carleton returned from Quebec, and even the scanty evidence now 
available in the Dartmouth Papers indicates how close must have 
been the co-operation behind the scenes. 4 When the curtain goes 
up again Hillsborough is busy elsewhere, and Dartmouth, who had 
been President of the Board in 1765, is in the American Depart- 
ment; but Carleton's policy is in full possession of the stage, and 
the official apologist for the Quebec Act, as we have seen, is William 

The progress of the Bill to its final form would be hard to trace, 

1 See the memorandum in the Dartmouth Papers, vii. 2353 endorsed Opinion 
On the Government and Laws of Quebec (n.d.) : 'I think the Office that hath been 
devolved on the B. of T. of framing the Constitution of Quebec . . . was not 
properly speaking their original Business, It being a matter of general State 

Cf. also C. Greville to Dartmouth, July 18, 1774: 'I must tell you that the 
dissatisfaction among the Lords of Trade is general & it has been often said that 
if no other business but signing was expected that it would be unnecessary to 
attend.' Dartmouth Papers, vii. 2368. See also Cramahc to Dartmouth, Nov. 1 1, 
1772 : 'The Earl of Hillsborough, in his Letter No. 12, having signified to General 
Carleton, that . . . the General might for the future confine himself to one 
channel of correspondence, without transmitting to their Lordships Duplicates 
of his Dispatches, We have conformed thereto ever since and shall continue so 
to do.' Q. Series, 9. 51. 'Letter No. 12' does not appear in the Q. Series, but 
No. 13 is dated July Q, 1768. Q. Series, 5-2, p. 602. 

2 The Controversy . . . Reviewed, p. 207. 

3 'However happy I should be to undertake an office under his Lordship, 
which so intirely corresponded with my views and habits, I could not think of 
making any engagement without first communicating his offer to Mr. Grenvillc, 
and receiving his approbation. The noble Earl replied, that he knew of my 
connection with Mr. Grenville before he sent to me. . . . 

I liked the situation, and had the greatest respect and esteem for the principal, 
and wished much to be connected with his Lordship.' Extra Official State 
Papers, ii. 40, 42-3. 

4 Knox to Dartmouth, Apr. 30, 1774; Memorandum in Carleton's hand- 
writing (n.d.); Memorandum in Knox's handwriting (n.d. but probably Apr. 
30, 1774); Pownall to Dartmouth, July 17, 1774, &c. Dartmouth Papers, v. 
2341 ; vii. 2352; vii. 2360; vii. 2369, &c. 


and the task is perhaps unnecessary here. It was said in debate 
that 'no one has dared to avow this Bill that it has been prolem 
sine matre creatam' ; and Lord North himself refused to name its 
sponsors. 1 The Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 
May 2, 1774, by Lord Dartmouth, whose well-known piety and 
benevolence, it is safe to say, covered vicariously a multitude of 
sins. 2 The debates remained unknown and unpublished for sixty- 
five years until the shorthand notes of Sir Henry Cavendish were 
discovered in the Egerton Manuscripts in the British Museum. The 
proceedings, in fact, from May, 1768, to June, 1774, had remained 
almost a sealed book, 'so strictly was the standing order enforced 
for the exclusion of strangers, and so rigidly were those persons 
punished who ventured to make public the speeches of the 
members*. 3 

For the Quebec Act in particular, the fugitive phrases that sur- 
vived at the time indicate the widest divergencies of opinion. In 
official language the measure was based upon 'justice and hu- 
manity', and 'the sentiments and inclinations of those who are to 
be governed*. The King himself, having refused an answer to a 
petition presented by the Lord Mayor of London 4 because the Bill 
had not yet been 'presented for his royal assent', proceeded imme- 
diately to the Houses of Parliament and assented to the Bill, 
observing that 'it was founded on the clearest principles of justice 
and humanity'. 5 But the phrases which passed so unsuspectedly 
into historical currency for later generations could scarcely have 
convinced anybody in 1774 who was not already in agreement with 
North's fatal policy against the American colonies ; and indeed it is 

1 An Appeal to the Public Stating and Considering the Objections to the Quebec 
Bill (Thomas Bernard), London, 1774, p. 56; Debates of the House of Commons 
in the Year 1774, on the Bill for making more Effectual Provision for the Govern- 
ment of the Province of Quebec, drawn up from the Notes of the Right Honourable 
Sir Henry Cavendish, Bart., ed. J. Wright, London, 1839, p. 8. 

'A Noble Man I hear of a very religious turn/ Murray to Ross, Dec. 4, 
11765, Murray Papers, i. 289. Cf. Wm. Gregory's Memorial: 'Your Lordship's 
well known Character for being the Protector, Patron, and Advocate of Injured 
& Oppressed Innocence.' Dartmouth Papers, vii. 2381. 

3 Cavendish's Debates, p. iii. 'During the proceedings in the House of Lords 
on the three bills for the government of America, the members of the House of 
Commons . . . had been refused the usual admission behind the throne.' Id., 
p. 169. 

4 'Attended by several aldermen, the recorder, and upwards of one hundred 
and fifty of the common Council . . . supplicating his Majesty not to give his 
assent to the bill.' Id., p. 3. 

5 Ibid. Cf. Knox's Thoughts on the Act, pp. 15, 32, &c: 'framed upon the 
strictest principles of justice and humanity.' 


unnecessary to go beyond the sponsors of the measure itself for 
evidence that it marked a very fundamental reversal of colonial 


The first object of the Bill, in the words of Carleton's own 
Memorandum, was 'to get rid of the Proclamation of 1763 with the 
Commissions and Ordinances depending thereon and to restore 
the old Law and Constitution'. 1 By the Quebec Act all vestiges of 
British policy after 1763 the Proclamation so far as it related to 
Quebec, the governors' Commissions, all ordinances relative to 
civil government and justice, and 'all Commissions to Judges and 
other Officers thereof were specifically * revoked, annulled, and 
made void'. 2 The 'old Law and Constitution' which Carleton so 
far succeeded in restoring was in effect 'a constitution such as the 
world never saw before'. 'With regard to state policy', said Burke, 
'the only difference is, they will have George the Third for Lewis 
the Sixteenth'.^ In 1763, 'the Benefit of the Laws of our Realm 
of England' had been promised to 'all Persons Inhabiting in or 
resorting to' Quebec, pending the calling of an Assembly. By the 
Quebec Act French civil law re-established alike the 'Honors, 
Property and Profits' of the seigneurs and the feudal obligations 
of the habitants', and it was not the fault of the seigneurs that 
French criminal law did not re-establish 'the use of the Torture & 
the Punishment of breaking upon the Wheel'. 4 

By Proclamation and Commission in 1763 'the King had imme- 
diately and irrevocably granted' an Assembly 'in like manner as in 
other provinces under the King'. By the Quebec Act, for the first 
time since the British constitution had been 'restored to its true 
Principles', a governor and council were to form by statute the 
normal legislature of a British province. 5 

In 1763 precise instructions were issued for 'the advantageous 
and effectual Settlement of our said Province' to be encouraged by 
'Proclamation in all the Colonies in North America'. 'It is one 
object of this measure', said Wedderburn in 1774, 'that these 

1 Dartmouth Papers, viii. 2352. 

2 14 Geo. Ill, c. 83. Shortt and Doughty, i. 572. 

3 Cavendish's Debates, p. 289. 

4 Carleton's Memorandum, Dartmouth Papers, viii. 2352; Lotbiniere's Choses 
Indispensable*, &c., Shortt and Doughty, i. 562. Lotbiniere spoke 'tant en son 
nom, qu'au nom des Canadiens'. Id., i. 564. 

5 Lord Mansfield in Campbell v. Hall, id., i. 53 1 ; Lords of Trade to Lawrence, 
Mar. 25, 1756, N.S., A. Series, 59. 22. 


persons should not settle in Canada'. 1 But the Quebec Act was 
more than the reversal of Shirley's * Great Plan'. It was the cul- 
mination of a slowly maturing policy in the inner circles of govern- 
ment with regard to the whole future of settlement in America. 
It is clear that Hillsborough, Carleton, and Knox were all opposed 
on general principles to the settlement of the hinterlands west of 
the Alleghany Mountains, and particularly, as it now appeared, to 
the extension of the boundaries of Quebec to the Ohio and the 
Mississippi as provided by the Quebec Act. When this extension 
was determined upon for other reasons, they insisted at least upon 
'the french mode of Seigneuries ... as corresponding with the 
whole scope & purpose of the Bill. . . . The Crown ought not to 
change those Tenures even when the Lands come into the hands 
of English subjects'. Knox is careful to add Carleton's significant 
hint that 'the Tenure by Seigneurie gives the Crown great power 
over the Seigneur' which would be lost if British grants of land 
were permitted in the Act. Dartmouth altered the Bill accordingly, 
and on the day before introducing it in the House of Lords assured 
Hillsborough that 'if it is not wished that British Subjects should 
settle that country nothing can more effectually tend to discourage 
such attempts'. 2 

During the debates official comment upon this phase of policy 
was very guarded, but Thomas Bernard in his published speech 
for the third reading of the Quebec Bill, stated with less restraint 
that the measure in its relation to the American colonies would 
have 'another good effect, to restrain and prevent their back settle- 
ments, where they would be beyond the reach of our controul ; and 
will oblige them to cultivate the sea-coasts, where, so long as we 
command the sea, we shall always have a power of coercion over 
them'.3 Knox in his Thoughts on the Act maintained that 'nothing 

1 Cavendish's Debates y p. 58. 

3 It had been Hillsborough's consistent policy to stop settlement west of the 
Alleghany Mountains ; and even Knox % on taking office under him had found 
'no occasion to make his Lordship any representations upon the subject'. Extra 
Official State Papers, ii. 43. Hillsborough in fact resigned the seals of the 
American Department in 1772 on account of the projected plan of a separate 
government on the Ohio. Id., ii. 44. The grant to Wharton, however, was not 
made. The Memorandum (n.d.) in Knox's handwriting in the Dartmouth 
Papers, vii. 2360, proving that Hillsborough, Carleton, and Knox were staunchly 
of the same opinion as late as April 30, 1774, is endorsed 'Lord Hillsborough's 
objections to the Quebec Bill in its present form' ; the date is fixed by Knox's 
letter to Dartmouth in Dartmouth Papers, vi. 2341. See Shortt and Doughty, i. 
551-4, and particularly the excellent notes. 

3 An Appeal to the Public, London, 1774, p. 55. 


would prove more fatal to the authority of this kingdom over 
America' than the settlement of the hinterlands ; the task of stop- 
ping it 'can only be done by giving a power in the governor of 
Quebec'. 1 In The Justice and Policy of the Late Act Knox is still 
more specific: 'the whole of the derelict country is, by the first 
clause of the act, put under the jurisdiction of the governor of 
Quebec, with the avowed purpose of excluding all further settle- 
ment therein'. 2 'This is the border', exclaimed Wedderburn on 
the second reading of the Bill, 'beyond which, for the advantage 
of the whole empire, you shall not extend yourselves'. 3 


So much by way of deliberate reversal may be deduced from the 
official support given to the Bill in 1774. But in truth the ministers 
were not dependent upon debate for their majority; they carried 
through the main features of the measure with cool and sardonic 
resolution. Government alone had access to the reports of Carle- 
ton, of Wedderburn, of Thurlow, and of Marriott the reports of 
the Board of Trade had long since been lodged in the recesses of 
state policy or were mentioned in debate only to be perverted. 4 
All motions for papers were voted down by disciplined majorities : 
that for Carleton's report by 85 to 46, that for Thurlow's, Wedder- 
burn's, and Marriott's by 85 to 45.^ The sanctum sanctorum of 
state was open, said Burke, to the sponsors of the Bill; 'but the 
curtain is drawn upon us, and the door is shut'. 6 

1 Settlements there were 'so contrary to those solid maxims of policy that 
penetrates into the future consequence of things, that it demands the greatest 
attention to prevent them'. Thoughts on the Act, pp. 29-30. 

z 'And for the establishment of uniform regulations for the Indian trade.' 

p- 43. 

3 Cavendish's Debates, p. 58. 

4 See Bamher Gascoyne's speech in Cavendish's Debates, p. 93. Gascoyne, 
though a member of the Board (he had not signed the Report of 1769), was now 
in complete accord with the Quebec Bill. He opposed the vote for papers, and 
was one of the government tellers. Id., pp. 94, 95. 

Cf. Thomas Townshend, Jr.: 'Where are the members of that board of trade ? 
Why have they gone from their opinions? Gentlemen who have signed their 
names to a report, should tell us why they now have differed from that report.' 
Id., p. 231. 

5 Id., pp. 94, 95. Cf. Dempster: 'My thanks to the gentlemen opposite, for 
allowing us any information upon this subject at all. . . . The administration have 
taken eleven years to consider of the subject; they have had it referred to the 
board of trade, and to the law officers abroad and at home . . . the only reason 
why we are not to have the necessary light, is the time it would take to copy the 
reports.' Id., p. 95. 6 Cavendish's Debates, p. 172. 


Baffled by the denial of material evidence the opposition had 
little at first to offer but general criticism the arbitrary principles 
in the Bill, the 'sullen silence' of the government majority, the 
'concurrence* which carried the Bill irresistibly forward. Five wit- 
nesses were permitted to appear when the House resolved itself 
into committee ; but the evidence of at least two of them was not 
illuminating. The cross-examination of Dr. Marriott, the Ad- 
vocate-General, and occasionally that of Carleton himself, can 
scarcely be read with gravity. The governor, as one member of the 
House sarcastically expressed it, was 'the most valuable witness I 
ever heard in my life. The general stood at that bar some hours, 
and now no gentleman is a bit the wiser'. At one stage the evi- 
dence reads like the story of the siege and sortie which formed one 
of the most brilliant exploits of that dauntless soldier less than 
two years later in the defence of Quebec. When the name of Le 
Brun was mentioned Carleton replied that he knew 'a great deal 
of him', and poured forth such a torrent of well-informed vitupera- 
tion that the witness was abruptly 'ordered to withdraw' until the 
scandalized committee could recover its equilibrium. 1 The legal 
fencing of Marriott, the Advocate-General, on the other hand, 
was so adroit and nimble in its wit, so elusive and non-committal 
in its purport, that the ten pages of his evidence deserve to live as 
literature even if they contributed nothing to the matter under 
discussion. Colonel Barre, whose trenchant mind and incisive 
diction have brought him into the field as a candidate for the 
authorship of the Letters ofjunius, admitted that 'there is no hitting 
this gentleman'. *I cannot persuade myself to be out of temper 
with him. He was mounted very high, and pranced and pranced, 
and never moved from the place.' 2 

But the cool nonchalance of North and Wedderburn, and the 
unanimity of an invincible majority, inspired no laughter. Burke 
had returned to London too late for the second reading of the Bill ; 
he solemnly protested that he approached it 'not only with my 
mind unprejudiced, but with a determination to avoid everything 
that had any shadow of passion in it' ; 3 but the evidence of Maseres, 
Hey, and Lotbiniere, and the inordinate haste of the government, 
drove home a conviction that some unexplained and sinister pur- 
pose lurked behind the Bill. Thus Maseres maintained that 'the 

1 Cavendish's Debates, pp. 123, 112, 115-16. 

a Id., pp. 175, 239. Marriott's evidence, pp. 163 et seq. 

3 Id., p. 233- 


best method of giving satisfaction* to the Canadians was 'by retain- 
ing a system of English laws, with such alterations as it may be 
necessary to introduce'; and that an Assembly 'would be very 
agreeable to the Canadians, if Catholics were admitted into it'. 1 
Chief Justice Hey stated that 'the body of the people are not at all 
dissatisfied with the conquest', though 'the higher part are' ; that 
he had 'been unfortunate enough to differ with general Carleton' 
by recommending that British laws 'should be considered as the 
leading system of judicature' ; that 'such a mixture might be made, 
as would be agreeable both to the Canadians and British subjects 
. . . and answer every purpose of state policy', though the seigneurs 
had 'risen in their demands of late, and hope to be gratified to the 
utmost extent of their desires'. 3 

Lotbiniere on behalf of the seigneurs had pressed for French 
criminal as well as French civil law; he was 'in his own opinion 
much against' an Assembly; though the 'natural inclinations of the 
Canadians' were in favour of it, 'provided they were allowed to be 
a part of it themselves ... if they had not expressed any desire 
for a legislative assembly, it was from having been informed, that, 
in that assembly, they would not be allowed as Roman Catholics, 
to sit'. * 

In the face of this evidence the most mysterious features of the 
Bill the boundaries, the insistence upon 'the Laws of Canada, as 
the Rule' for Quebec, the systematic indulgence of the seigneurs 
in conjunction with the coercive measures of the same session 
against the American colonies began to wear a sinister and men- 
acing aspect. By North's own admission the Bill was included 
among the measures which were designed 'to put an immediate stop 
to the present disorders in North America' and to make 'permanent 
provisions . . . for better securing the just dependance of the 
colonies '.4 To that note the chief opposition to the Bill was 
pitched, and in the end perhaps no single measure of that whole 
cycle of coercion aroused more vehement defiance on both sides 
of the Atlantic than the Quebec Act. In 1779 Mas&res asserted that 
'it had not only offended the inhabitants of the province itself, in 
a degree that could hardly be conceived, but had alarmed all the 
English provinces in America, and contributed more, perhaps, 

1 Id., pp. 129, 132. Maseres, whose distrust of the Roman Catholic Church 
was almost an obsession, preferred postponing an Assembly for seven years. Ibid. 
J Id., pp. 154, 156, 157. 

3 Shortt and Doughty, i. 562; Cavendish's Debates, p. 162. 
1 Id., p. 13. 
34i- S 


than any other measure whatsoever, to drive them into rebellion 
against their Sovereign*. 1 


In truth no more fateful year is to be found in British history 
than 1774. It was the year of the Boston Port Act, the Quartering 
Act, the Massachusetts Government Act, the Administration of 
Justice Act, and of the first Continental Congress at Philadelphia. 
It was in 1774 that Vergennes became the Minister of Louis XVI. 
It was the year of Burke 's Speech on American Taxation just two 
weeks before the Quebec Bill was introduced when the last 
vestiges of sound policy seemed about to vanish and 'all is con- 
fusion beyond it'. Deep and fundamental as the American issue 
had become there were those who still claimed that conciliation 
could yet keep it from becoming irremediable. Coercion, though 
proclaimed from the housetops by Knox and whispered anony- 
mously by the King's ministers, had not yet resulted in that * first 
drop of blood' which, as Chatham foretold, would make *a wound 
of that rancorous, corroding, festering nature that it will straight- 
way mortify the whole body*. 

Thus the Quebec Act, which is now chiefly remarkable for its 
subsequent influence upon Canadian history and politics, belonged 
in its origin and in its context essentially to the age before the 
deluge. It was devised to preclude a 'Catastrophe shocking to 
think of. Beyond all question, for weal or for woe, it was not 
without influence both upon the beginnings and upon the subse- 
quent course of the American Revolution : though scarcely perhaps 
in the way its advocates intended. Chatham and Burke and Fox 
thus viewed the Quebec Act in a background then for the last time 
contemplated with hope by British statesmen the background of 
an undivided Empire. Let it be conceded that this, the greatest 
issue of that generation or of any other, had the first claim upon 
the thought and allegiance of public men. And indeed the Quebec 
Bill was attacked not because it ignored the American situation 
but because, as the opponents of the Bill came to believe, it dealt 
with the American situation upon principles so reactionary that 
none thereafter could mistake their import. 

'It is not right', said Fox, 'for this country to originate and 
establish a constitution, in which there is not a spark or semblance 

1 Quoted with approval by Wright, editor of the Parliamentary History, in the 
Preface to Cavendish's Debates, p. v. 


of liberty/ It was 'a perfectly despotic government, contrary to 
the genius and spirit of the British constitution*. It carried with 
it 'the appearance of a love of despotism, and a settled design to 
enslave the people of America, very unbecoming this country. My 
idea is, that America is not to be governed by force, but by affec- 
tion and interest'. 1 'Am I sure', asked Burke, 'that this despotism 
is not meant to lead to universal despotism?' 

1 No free country can keep another country in slavery. The price they 
pay for it will be their own servitude. The constitution proposed is 
one which men never will, and never ought to bear. ... By being made 
perpetual it is evident that this constitution is meant to be both an 
instrument of tyranny to the Canadians, and an example to others of 
what they have to expect ; at some time or other it will come home to 

Burke 's last word upon the Bill (June 10) was a warning that 
'Canada will become a dangerous instrument in the hands of those 
who wish to destroy English liberty in every part of our posses- 
sions'. 2 

The boundaries fixed by the Bill were assailed as evidences of 
sinister and deliberate policy. 'I observe in this description of the 
frontier', said Dunning, 'a studied ambiguity of phrase. I cannot 
tell what it means ; but I conjecture that it means something bad.' 
Burke spoke of 'a line of circumvallation' about the other colonies ; 
and Colonel Barre suspected a design of securing 'a frontier at the 
back of almost all our capital settlements. ... I suspect something 
behind which has not yet come out. ... I look upon this measure as 
bad in itself, and as leading to something worse ... it carries in its 
breast something that squints and looks dangerous to the inhabi- 
tants of our other colonies'. 3 

But Barre's suspicion went deeper than this and it was not to be 
thwarted. At a midnight session, during which Burke in sheer 
physical exhaustion left the House in protest, 4 Barre forced from 
North an admission that 'by the passing of this bill' French sub- 
jects in Quebec would be put 'in possession of all the privileges 

1 Cavendish's Debates, pp. 61, 62. l Id., pp. 89, 290. 

3 Id., pp. 1 6, 189, 42, 43. As already noted both Carleton and Hillsborough 
opposed the extension of the boundaries up to the end of April, and were recon- 
ciled to it only by the exclusion of British settlement and the uniform establish- 
ment of French feudal tenures. Carleton's plan was to operate between Quebec 
and New York, and thus to 'separate the Northern from the Southern Colonies'. 
See above, p. 112. 

Id., p. 230 : 'I have neither strength of body nor energy of mind, to proceed 
at this late hour.' 


they before enjoyed', and could therefore 'serve the King of 
England, as officers and private soldiers, without taking the oaths, 
&c.V In tense and impassioned language Barre avowed 'a more 
serious and deeper detestation of this bill than before': 

'I suspected throughout that there was some mischief in it, not avowed 
in the bill itself. A very extraordinary indulgence is given . . . calcu- 
lated to gain the hearts and affections of these people. To this I 
cannot object, if it is to be applied to good purposes; but if you are 
about to raise a Popish army to serve in the colonies from this time, 
all hope of peace in America will be destroyed. The Americans will 
look on the Canadians as their task-masters, and, in the end, their 
executioners. I smelt this business out from the beginning. ... I 
wash my hands of this business. I here declare my solemn aversion 
to it. I know what you mean. Liberavi animam meam! I have foretold 
the thing. There is not a man in the government that means to 
deny it.' 3 


Other features of the Bill met a less critical reception. The 
House was disposed to accord the amplest recognition to the legal 
usages and custom of the French regime, but what was the mean- 
ing of the insistence upon French civil law instead of British as the 
basis of the legal system of Quebec ? 3 Why was it deprecated by 
the Chief Justice and Attorney- General of Quebec before the bar 
of the House, and why was it promoted by Carleton 'the general 
officer' as Burke is careful to call him in a report which the 
government refused to produce? It is worthy of remark that 
Burke supported the virtual 'establishment' of the Roman Catholic 
Church in Quebec by the legalization of tithe ; stipulating, however, 

1 Id., pp. 227, 228. 

'Mr. William Burke. Has the King the power of ordering the army to any 
part of his dominions ? . . . 

Mr. Baker. The difficulties thicken so amazingly, that it is almost impossible 
to go on with this bill. . . .' Id. y p. 228. 

Lord Barrington on the government side afterwards contradicted North's 
view. Id., p. 229. 

2 Barrels challenge was not met: 'The Attorney-General: The single 
question is, whether this clause should stand part of the bill? . . . How the 
future condition of Canadian soldiers and officers can be made a part of the 
argument, I cannot see. . . . 

Lord Barrington. What the learned gentleman states is undoubtedly true. 
Whether the Canadians can or cannot be soldiers or officers has nothing to do 
with this clause.' Id., pp. 228, 229. 

3 ... 'In as large, ample, and beneficial Manner, as if the said Proclamation, 
Commissions, Ordinances, and other Acts and Instruments, had not been made.' 
Quebec Act. 


that it must be a * legal provision not an arbitrary pro vision ' and 
must not be 'dispossessable at the King's pleasure'. 'I want as 
much of law as you please, and as little of the King's pleasure as 
possible'. 1 Wedderburn, on the other hand, made it clear that by 
the Bill 'all this indulgence (was) given subject to his Majesty's 
approbation. ... So that all tithes are subject to be taken from 
them'. 2 While toleration as distinct from 'establishment' was not 
involved in the Bill, no more ardent appeal is to be found on 
either side than Burke's famous plea for that 'healing, Catholic 
principle': 'the thirsty earth of our own country is gasping and 
gaping, and crying out for that healing shower from heaven V No 
more tolerant conception of an Assembly, moreover, is to be found 
even in the Report of the Board of Trade in 1769 than in Fox's 
challenge to North: 'Hitherto, I have not heard a single argument 
against the establishment of an assembly. . . . No one has urged the 
circumstance of the people of Canada being Roman Catholics as 
an objection to an assembly, and I trust I shall never hear such an 
objection stated.' North's reply was a question and a statement. 
'Is it safe ... to put the principal power into the hands of an 
assembly of Roman Catholic new subjects ? . . . There is something 
in that religion, which makes it not prudent in a Protestant govern- 

But the core of the Bill was not tithe nor civil law nor Roman 
Catholic 'establishment' but arbitrary governance, and the use 
which the administration proposed to make of it in America. In 
that sense the real alternative to the Quebec Bill is to be sought not 
in the fierce denunciations of 1774 for it was too late to offer any 
concrete alternative but postponement till the next session but 
the Report of 1769 which had seemed upon the point of acceptance 
before Carleton's return to England. In truth the bolt had already 
fallen, and the debates of 1774 were but distant thunders, full, 
nevertheless, of menace and of portent. Not even the strictest 
censorship upon the debates of both Houses s could prevent these 
reverberations from crossing the Atlantic. Chatham's 'Olympian 
thunders' descended wrathfully upon the third reading of the 
Quebec Bill in the House of Lords. The disconnected phrases that 
survive in the Chatham Correspondence must give but an imperfect 

1 Cavendish's Debates, p. 217. 
* Id., p. 55. 

3 Id., p. 222. 

4 Id. y pp. 246, 247. 

5 See above, p. 124 and note 3. 


impression of that ' piercing and terrible note' . No voice more potent 
than his had ever spoken to America. Tortured in mind and body, 
he appeared at Westminster, a shadow of the Great Commoner ; but 
no more vehement or prophetic invective ever fell upon the central 
theme of the Quebec Bill. The Act would 'put the whole people 
under arbitrary power'. 'It was a most cruel, oppressive, and 
odious measure, tearing up justice and every good principle by the 
roots . ' * The bill established a despotic government in that country . ' 
The whole temper of the measure was 'tyrannical and despotic'. 
The extinction of trial by jury was 'a very alarming circumstance', 
and he was 'a bold man who proposed such a plan'. In making the 
Roman Catholic Church under the arbitrary approbation of the 
Crown 'the established religion of that vast continent', the Bill was 
'a child of inordinate power'. Turning to the bishops in the House 
of Lords he asked 'if any of that bench would hold it out for 
baptism'. In conclusion, states the report, 'he pathetically ex- 
pressed his fears that it might . . . finally lose the hearts of all his 
Majesty's American subjects'. 1 



The burst of resentment aroused by the Quebec Act throughout 
the American colonies has sometimes been attributed to its associa- 
tion with the Coercive Acts of the same session against Massa- 
chusetts. The facts would seem to warrant no such discount. It 
is not difficult to account for the notoriety of the Quebec Act even 
among the 'intolerable Acts' of 1774. 

The Boston Port Bill and other coercive measures of that year 
were admittedly temporary. The Quebec Act, as Burke pointed 
out, seemed to be the result of inveterate policy. After ten years 
of delay it bore all the marks of cold calculation 'an instrument 
of tyranny to the Canadians, and an example to others of what they 
have to expect'. Whatever hope the American colonist might re- 
tain in individual statesmen, or colonial agents, or the British 
public, it was impossible to mistake the temper and official policy 
of the King's ministers. Letter after letter in American newspapers 
denounced this 'military government', this 'detestable Quebec Bill, 
which is so evidently intended as a bridle on the northern colonies'. 

1 Chatham Correspondence , iv. 351-3. 


* The Altar of Despotism is established in America P r The Act was 
singled out in the Suffolk County Resolves as 'dangerous in an 
extreme degree ... we are indispensably obliged to take all proper 
measures for our security'. 2 Alexander Hamilton in his Remarks 
upon the Quebec Bill marked the peril that menaced the colonies 
from an arbitrary government upon their frontiers, from a foreign 
law and an established Roman Catholic Church : he discerned two 
'great purposes in contemplation first, the subjugation of the 
colonies and afterward that of Great Britain itself'. 3 

The first Continental Congress met at Philadelphia scarcely 
more than two months after the Quebec Rill received the royal 
assent. In the Journals of that momentous gathering, the Act 
appears in every variety of protest in the Suffolk County Resolves 
approved by the Congress, in the Non-importation Association, in 
the Declaration and Resolves, in the Address to the People of Great 
Britain, in the Memorial to the Inhabitants of the British Colonies, 
in the Petition to the King, and in the Address to the Inhabitants of 
Quebec. The Act was declared to be * impolitic, unjust, and cruel, 
as well as unconstitutional, and most dangerous and destructive of 
American rights*. It resulted in 'erecting a tyranny there, to the 
great danger ... of the neighbouring British colonies'. 'By the 
influence of civil principles and ancient prejudices', it was designed 
'to dispose the inhabitants to act with hostility against the free 
Protestant colonies'. It was the culmination of the 'ministerial 
plan for enslaving us ... that by being disunited from us, detached 
from our interests, by civil as well as religious prejudices . . . they 
might become formidable to us, and on occasion, be fit instruments 
in the hands of power to reduce the ancient free Protestant 
Colonies to the same state of slavery with themselves'. 'It is clear 
beyond a doubt, that a resolution is formed, and is now carrying 
into execution, to extinguish the freedom of these colonies, by 
subjecting them to a despotic government'. 4 Nor was this con- 
viction less spontaneous in America than it was general, for the 
debates upon the Bill were, of course, unknown even to the British 
public. Thus in America as in Great Britain the most discerning 
minds of their day were moved to desperation. Chatham's fears 

1 Quoted in Smith, Struggle for the Fourteenth Colony, pp. 80, 81, 82, &c. } q.v. 
1 Journals of the Continental Congress, cd. Ford, i. 35. 
3 Works, ed. Lodge, p. 187. 

i Journals of the Continental Congress, ed. Ford, i. pp. 66, 72, 76, 87, 88, 99, 


had been but too truly prophetic that the Quebec Act c might . . . 

finally lose the hearts of all his Majesty's American subjects'. 

But the Act had a still more deplorable effect upon the American 
colonies. By opening the flood-gates of suspicion it brought all 
that was least worthy in colonial prejudice surging to the top. 
Never did Chatham more instinctively gauge the temper of New 
England than when he predicted the effect upon them of 'popery 
and arbitrary power'. 'The whole nation has taken the alarm', 
wrote Thomas Young to Samuel Adams. Gage wrote to Dart- 
mouth that the Protestant religion was believed to be' in danger 
'They cannot be made to believe the Contrary'. 1 In the Address to 
the People of Great Britain , in strange contrast to the Address to the 
Inhabitants of Quebec, the Congress itself expressed its 'astonish- 
ment, that a British Parliament should ever consent to establish in 
that country a religion that has deluged your island in blood, and 
dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion 
through every part of the world'.- When men like John Jay could 
draft so desperate an appeal to Britons it is easy to understand the 
fears of Cumberland County townsmen that the Act might bring 
back the days of Frontenac and 'introduce the French and Indians 
into our frontier towns'. 3 


In one respect at least the Quebec Act was still more disastrous, 
and in a sense perhaps decisive. Meredith's open letter to Chat- 
ham, published anonymously in 1774, had hinted at 'a fatal 
necessity ... to coerce America'. It was reprinted almost imme- 
diately in New York and attributed to Lord Lyttelton. 4 The fears 
of a 'popish army' from the north to reinforce Gage in Boston 
ran like wildfire through the northern colonies, in many instances 
inspired by as clear an insight into the strategic importance of 
Quebec as Carleton himself had shown to Gage in 1767.^ A well- 
informed observer at the Continental Congress wrote to Dart- 
mouth from Philadelphia (September 25, 1774) that the fire which 
hitherto might easily have been quenched or controlled now 

1 Quoted in Smith, op. cit., pp. 85, 88. For many similar extravagances see 
the same, pp. 80-93. 

1 Journals, ed. Ford, i. 88. 

3 Quoted in Smith, op. cit. y p. 86. 

4 Letter from Thomas Lord Lyttleton to William Pitt, Earl of Chatham on the 
Quebec Bill, New York, 1774. 

5 See Smith, op. cit., pp. 81-6, and above, p. 112. 


threatened a general conflagration. Up to the Quebec Act there 
had always been * deliberate measures of petitioning previous to 
any opposition'. With the Quebec Act these were 'laid aside as 
inadequate to the apprehended danger and mischief, and now the 
people are generally ripe for the execution of any plan the Congress 
advises, should it be war itself 1 . The * apprehended danger and 
mischief was 'the idea of bringing down the Canadians and 
savages upon the English Colonies'. 1 

It was on the very morning the second Continental Congress met 
at Philadelphia (May 10, 1775) ten days after the Quebec Act was 
to come into force and three weeks after Lexington that Ethan 
Allen and the 'Green Mountain boys' took Ticonderoga. Brown's 
mission of the previous March on behalf of the Boston Committee 
of Correspondence had obtained rather more authentic news from 
Quebec than Carleton was likely to get from the self-interested 
seigneurs, and it is necessary, therefore, to discount the resolutions 
of both Congress and the Connecticut Assembly that the captors 
of Ticonderoga and Crown Point were already actuated by 'immi- 
nent dangers and calamities' from the north. 2 But when Brown 
presented the report of his mission (May 18) Congress declared 
that 'there is indubitable evidence that a design is formed by the 
British Ministry of making a cruel invasion from the province of 
Quebec, upon these colonies, for the purpose of destroying our 
lives and liberties, and some steps have actually been taken to carry 
the said design into execution'. 3 

A few weeks later the Declaration on Taking Arms was drawn up 
by Congress to be placed in the hands of George Washington. It 
contained the assertion, drafted by John Dickinson, the most 
moderate member of the Committee, that 'We have received cer- 
tain intelligence that General Carleton, the Governor of Canada, 
is instigating the people of that province and the Indians to fall 
upon us'. 4 An observer who had 'spoken with many members of 
the Congress' afterwards wrote from Philadelphia that Congress 
was finally induced to support an invasion of Canada 'partly from 
assurances of a ready Reception by ye Canadians, and partly to 

1 Joseph Reed to Dartmouth, quoted in Coffin, The Province of Quebec and 
the Early American Revolution, University of Wisconsin, 1896, p. 482. See 
Journals, ed. Ford, i. 27 n. 

2 The captured troops had been sent into Connecticut. See 4, Force II. 570, 
quoted in Smith, op. cit., p. 167; also Journals, ed. Ford, ii. 56. 

3 Journals, ed. Ford, ii. 556. 
* Id., ii. 152. 


show the ministry that their Dependence on Canada is vain'. 1 In 
truth the plan 'long since Recommended* 2 by Carleton had come to 
grief, and when Montgomery and Arnold reached the frontier in 
the wake of the 'Green Mountain boys', they found themselves 
looking into a defenceless country. 

In its effect upon the American situation, therefore, the Quebec 
Act proved to be a miscalculation. It had been associated by 
North and the King himself with other Acts 'to put an immediate 
stop to the present disorders in North America' and to secure 'the 
just dependance of the colonies M It proved to be n6t a deterrent 
but a violent irritant which did much to precipitate resistance by 
force in the thirteen provinces to the south and nearly lost a 
fourteenth, as we shall see, to the cause of the Revolution. 


For Quebec itself the miscalculation was scarcely less disastrous. 
The Church responded loyally to the privileges accorded to them 
by the Quebec Act, and to the fear of vastly different treatment at 
the hands of the dour New Englanders. Less than a fortnight 
after the capture of Ticonderoga Bishop Briand addressed a 
Mandement 'To All the People of this Province' with an appeal 
against the attempt of those 'in revolt against their lawful Sovereign 
... to prevent you from opposing their pernicious design'. The 
government of His Very Gracious Majesty and 'the recent favours 
with which he has loaded us' warranted 'gratitude and zeal in 
support of the interests of the British Crown'. The Mandement, 
says Tetu, 'ensured to the British all the influence of the clergy', 
and there can be no doubt that the clergy adopted in many in- 
stances the most drastic measures to counteract the influence of 
emissaries from the south and to consolidate their own. 4 But the 
Church could not fight; and Carleton looked to the seigneurs to 
meet the obligations implied in the Quebec Act. 

The day after his return tp Quebec (September 18, 1774) 

1 John Ewing to Dr. Williamson (London), n.d., in Intercepted Letters, 1775 
1777, Col. Off. Records, C.O. 5, vols. 40-2, p. 50. Pub. Arch. Can. 

2 Carleton to Gage, Sept. 20, 1774, in reply to Gage's proposal for 'a Body 
of Canadians and Indians ... to form a Junction with the King's Forces in this 
Province'. Carleton added with regard to the Indians 'but you know what sort 
of people they are*. Shortt and Doughty, ii. 584. See below, p. 140. 

3 Cavendish's Debates, p. 13. 

Quoted in Smith, op. cit., i. 210; Ttu, v$ques de Quebec, 1889, p. 327. See 
the evidence cited in Coffin, op. cit., p. 505 n. 2, &c. and Smith, op. cit., pp. 196, 
209, 210, &c. 


Carleton received an inquiry from Gage in Boston for 'a Body of 
Canadians and Indians ... to form a Junction with the King's 
Forces in this Province'. Carleton replied that the Canadians had 
testified 'the strongest marks of Joy, and Gratitude, and Fidelity 
. . . for the late Arrangements made at Home in their Favor', and 
that 'two, three or more Battalions' of them would be available for 
the plan which he himself had 'long since Recommended'. To 
Dartmouth a few days later Carleton wrote that "All Ranks of 
People amongst them vied with each other in testifying . . . the 
Desire they have by every Mark of Duty and Submission to prove 
themselves not undeserving of the Treatment they have met with', 1 

But the wish was father to the thought. Never were interested 
calculations more egregiously at fault than Carleton's reliance upon 
the old-world feudalism of Quebec. The governor, who had rested 
the weight of British policy in the Quebec Act upon the seigneurs 
and had believed only what he wanted to believe from their self- 
interested response, now discovered that a very important element 
had been left out of calculation. The 'due subordination' of the 
habitants was not forthcoming. The disillusionment came swiftly 
and convincingly, and it is unnecessary to go beyond the letters of 
the Chief Justice and of Carleton himself for the ironical retribution 
visited upon those who had put their trust in the traditions of 
French colonial government for Quebec. 

The truth was that the hold of the seigneurs over the censitaires 
largely a fiction even at the close of the French regime had 
been reduced by 1774 almost to a shadow. French civil law, far 
from inspiring the habitants with 'Duty and Submission', soon 
filled them with suspicion and resentment. The seigneurs, wrote 
the Chief Justice, were 'too much elated with the advantages they 
supposed they should derive from the restoration of their old 
Privileges & customs, and indulged themselves in a way of thinking 
& talking that gave very just offence'. The habitants showed their 
resentment by 'every shape of contempt and detestation': 

'What will be your Lordship's astonishment when I tell you that an 
act passed for the express purpose of gratifying the Canadians & 
which was supposed to comprehend all that they either wished or 
wanted is become the first object of their discontent & dislike. 
English officers to command them in time of war, & English Laws to 
govern them in time of Peace, is the general wish.'- 

1 Shortt and Doughty, ii. 583, 584. 

z To the Lord Chancellor, Aug. 28, 1775. /</., ii. 668 ff- 


In May, 1775, Carleton at St. John's called upon 'the Noblesse 
... to collect their Inhabitants . . . but tho' the Gentlemen testified 
great Zeal, neither their Entreaties or their Example could prevail 
upon the People ; a few of the Gentry, consisting principally of the 
Youth . . . formed a small Corps of Volunteers'. The habitants as 
a rule flatly refused to serve under their old masters. 1 The sei- 
gneurs did not always escape without personal violence. A few 
were made prisoners, sometimes with the help of the 'Bostonians'. 
When Ethan Allen appeared before Montreal his forces were 'two 
thirds Canadians'. Despite the best efforts of the seigneurs and 
* every argument urged by the clergy' Carleton reported that 'the 
Canadian peasantry . . . not only deserted their duty but numbers 
of them have taken arms against the Crown'. 'The Rebels have 
been much more successful with them.' 'Had the present Settle- 
ment taken Place when first recommended', Carleton wrote rue- 
fully to Gage, 'it would not have roused the Jealousy of the other 
Colonies, and had the appearance of more disinterested Favor to 
the Canadians.' 2 

Reluctant as Carleton was to face the facts, it was not long before 
the facts got the better of his prepossessions. His correspondence 
during this descent into Avernus is not pleasant to read. The 
habitants were 'the most ungrateful Race under the Sun', a 
'wretched People . . . blind to Honor Duty & their own Interest'; 
a people of 'stupid baseness' and of 'blind Perverseness'. The 
'Base Desertion of the Canadian Peasantry' was 'an unprecedented 
Defection without even pretending the least cause of Complaint'. 
There was 'nothing to fear from them in prosperity, and nothing 
to hope for when in distress'. 3 It will be observed that no blame 
is attached to the authors and direct beneficiaries of the Quebec Act. 
Carleton had not hesitated to rely upon 'the general Cause of the 
Attachments of Men, Self-Interest' 4 in dealing with the seigneurs ; 
it would seem that the habitants like their betters were also human, 
and that even by the lowest standards of human conduct the in- 
vaders were likely to succeed where the seigneurs and the Quebec 
Act had failed. That the habitants or even the British settlers in 
Quebec were amenable to worthier motives seems never to have 

1 Carleton to Dartmouth, June 7, 1775. Shortt and Doughty, ii. 664. 

2 Carleton to Dartmouth, Sept. 21, 1775 ; Oct. 25, 1775 ; Nov. 5, 1775 ; Feb. 4, 
1775, 'Secret'. Q. Series, 1 1. 261 ff., 267 ff., 274 ff., 290. 

3 Q Series, n. 261, 267, 274; 12. 188, &c. 

Carleton to Shelburne, Jan. 20, 1768, Shortt and Doughty, i. 294. 


appeared above Carleton's political horizon. Had the early 
successes of the invading army in securing the support of the 
habitants not been neutralized by almost incredible folly as the 
campaign proceeded, it is conceivable that the Quebec Act might 
have been no less disastrous in Quebec than in the thirteen colonies 
to the south. 


Meanwhile Dartmouth in Great Britain and Gage in Boston 
continued to rely upon Quebec. In the debates on a motion to 
repeal the Quebec Act (May, 1775) North now stated openly that 
'if the refractory colonies cannot be reduced to obedience by the 
present force, he should think it a necessary measure to arm the 
Roman Catholics of Canada and to employ them in that service 1 , 1 
In the previous September, as we have seen, Carleton himself was 
already upon the scene with the plan 'long since Recommended*, 
and hopeful of 'two, three, or more Battalions'. 'The King relies 
upon the Loyalty & Fidelity of his Canadian Subjects', wrote 
Dartmouth in July, 1775, 'for their Assistance to suppress Re- 
bellion.' Carleton was directed to raise 'a Body of 3,000 Canadians 
... to act as Light Infantry'. Three weeks later the news from 
Boston was more serious, and Dartmouth instructed Carleton 'that 
the number of Men to be raised in Canada, should be double what 
was first proposed'. It was 'His Majesty's Pleasure that instead of 
3,000 Men . . . the number to be raised be 6,ooo'. 2 

A week later Dartmouth wrote that Gage was to return to 
England on leave; that Carleton was to have full command 'in 
Quebec and upon its Frontiers' with Howe 'in the Colonies upon 
the Atlantic'; if the two forces could effect a junction, the com- 
mand of the whole was to devolve upon Carleton with the 'full 
appointments of Commander-in-Chief'. 3 A month later John 
PownallJointUnder-Secretary of the American Department, wrote 
of 20,000 troops to be supplied by Catherine the Great of Russia : 
'the greatest part of the Russians will be sent to Quebec'. 4 While 
Dartmouth was thus disposing of a Russian army and 6,000 hypo- 
thetical Canadians, Carleton found himself 'equally unprepared for 
Attack or Defence ; Not six hundred Rank & File fit for Duty upon 
the whole Extent of this great River'. 5 Six months later, in the 

1 Parliamentary History, xviii. 68 r. 2 Shortt and Doughty, ii. 667 n. 

3 Q. Series, ii. 198. * Sept. 8, 1775, Q- Series, n. 217. 

Carleton to Dartmouth, June 7, 1775. Shortt and Doughty y ii. 665. 


ruins of the Quebec Act but with resolution still indomitable, he 

was defending the last square mile of British territory in Quebec. 

The sequel belongs to the military history of the Revolution. 
Silent leges inter arma ; though it is surely one of the ironies of 
Canadian history that Carleton's essay in military statesmanship 
should have been so far redeemed and sanctified by his heroic 
defence of Quebec that the Quebec Act has come to be associated 
with the incomparable courage of its author in the salvation of 
Canada. But in truth American policy had already entered upon 
a new phase. A month before the fall of Montgomery' at the Prs 
de-Ville barricade Germain had succeeded Dartmouth as Secre- 
tary for the American Department, and there is discernible in the 
recall of Gage as Commander-in- Chief, of Legge from Nova 
Scotia, and finally of Carleton from Quebec, 1 the passing of at 
least one fatal project of coercion. The subjugation of the 'ancient 
British colonies' was not to be effected by 'Hy landers', Indians, 
'Accadians', 'Germans, Neutrals and Irish' from Nova Scotia nor 
by Canadians and Indians from Quebec. 2 Carleton's worst enemies, 
and he had many of them, could scarcely have devised a harder 
fate than the association of his name with such a triumvirate. 

But if ever an aberration of political judgement was inconti- 
nently expiated, Carleton must have expiated his at the hands of 
Germain. The first dispatch of the new Secretary began upon this 
ominous note. Carleton's own reports of 'unprecedented Defec- 
tion' among the Canadians 'left no room for any other considera- 
tion but that of sending as early as possible a relief to the Town of 
Quebec'. 3 Thus instead of 6,000 Canadians on the march to 
'suppress Rebellion', 4 it was now necessary to organize Burgoyne's 
ill-fated expedition for the spring of 1776, with 'a large Battering 
Train' and artillery, eight regiments of British troops, and 5,000 
auxiliaries to be 'furnished by ... the Duke of Brunswick and the 
Prince of Waldeck', in order to retake Quebec if necessary and 
secure the 'recovery of the whole JProvince'. 5 When the expedition 

1 Germain to Carleton, Mar. 26, 1777, 'Separate.' Q. Series, 13. 73 fT. ; 
Carleton to Germain, May 22, 1777, id., 13. 156, &c. 

* See above, p. 80. 

^ Q. Series, 12. i. See also Q, Series, n. 318. 

4 Dartmouth to Carleton, July 24, 1775, Q- Series, n. 182. Burke wrote to 
Rockingham on Aug. 23, 1775, of the British manufacturers beginning to 'snuff 
the cadaverous haut gotit of lucrative war' in supplying provisions and clothing 
for 'the intended six thousand Canadians*. Letters, ed. Laski, p. 201. 

*> Germain to Carleton, Feb. 17, 1775, Q. Series, 12. i. 


finally marched south in 1777, Carleton was instructed to 'return 
to Quebec' leaving Burgoyne to 'proceed with all possible Ex- 
pedition to join General Howe, and to put himself under his 
Command'. 1 The abrogation of a task which Carleton above all 
men in America was fitted to perform a task which Carleton had 
made his own by ten years of unremitting anticipation must 
have been gall and wormwood ; and Carleton drank the cup to the 
bitter dregs, not without signs of impotent fury. But the iron 
must have entered into his soul when he was instructed to supply 
Burgoyne with the necessary handful of French- Canadians and 
Indian scouts; 'and I am happy/ added Germain maliciously, 'in 
knowing that your Influence among them is so great that there 
can be no room to apprehend you will find it difficult to fulfill His 
Majesty's Expectations'. 2 

Fortunately the deciding factor in the security of Quebec during 
the closing years of the Revolution was neither the statesmanship 
nor the magnanimity of the King's ministers. In the wake of 
Burgoyne's fatal surrender at Saratoga came the alliance between 
France and the thirteen colonies; and with the French alliance, 
followed a few months later by the alliance with Spain, the destiny 
of Quebec may be said to have passed to the ascendancy of another 
star. In this it can scarcely be doubted that the old French menace 
of colonial days the menace which the colonies still discerned in 
the Quebec Act of Carleton and of Knox was still dominant in 
the minds of Washington and of Franklin. 3 The implications of 
the Spanish alliance on the other hand were scarcely less decisive. 
Spanish fears of American aggression on the Mississippi were no 
more easily allayed than American fears of French power on the 
St. Lawrence; and thus it came to pass that the only basis upon 
which it seemed possible to keep the triple alliance in equipoise 
Vergennes's formula of independence but no conquest may have 
had more to do with the ultimate security of Canada than all the 
vigilance of that Swiss 'Chocolate Soldier' of Canadian history, 
Governor Haldimand, or the presence of British regiments on the 
St. Lawrence. 


It is not always profitable to speculate upon the 'might-have- 
beens' of history. Could the magnanimous policy of the Board of 

1 Germain to Carleton. Mar. 26, 1777, 'Separate/ Q. Series, 13. 73. 
* Ibid. For Carleton's angry reply of May 22, 1777, id. y 13. 156. 
3 Cf. Writings of Washington, ed. Sparks, i. 311-14. 


Trade in 1765 and 1769 have done for Quebec what it did for 
Nova Scotia during the Revolution? Could it have succeeded 
better than Carleton's project of feudalism and coercion ? In truth 
it could scarcely have succeeded worse. One lesson at least seemed 
clear from the darkest hours of Carleton's governorship : the surest 
way to antagonize the habitants was to rehabilitate the seigneurs ; 
though it may be urged on the other hand that seigneur and 
Church together might have wrought more effectively in the cause 
of old France than in the cause of 'His Very Gracious Majesty 
King George the Third'. 1 It may be granted, moreover, that the 
French-Canadians with the exception of the seigneurs were un- 
prepared for an Assembly in 1769. But were they better prepared 
in 1791 when the province of Lower Canada was segregated from 
the four or five other British provinces, and was granted an 
Assembly almost by acclamation? 

In 1769 there was yet a prospect of retaining by ' large and 
liberal ideas in the management of great affairs' something of the 
'grandeur and stability' which Benjamin Franklin had foretold for 
the British Empire at the close of the Seven Years' War. In 1769 
the bitterness of the Revolution, the pledges of a reinvigorated 
feudalism to the seigneurs, the exploitation of the habitants in the 
interests of state policy, were all as yet in the future. In the future 
also was the menace which infected New England with ineradicable 
suspicion. And if political conditions were more promising in 
1769, the promise of material progress was surely, as Burke said, 
the best and fairest in colonial history. In 1791 when an Assembly 
was finally granted, the only neighbours under British institutions 
were the scattered settlements of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, 
Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Upper Canada, in 
which disintegration rather than co-operation was the order of the 
day. In 1769 there were fifteen other colonies with nearly three 
millions of British subjects whose enterprise in the regions of the 
Great Lakes might have anticipated by half a century the settle- 
ment of central Canada. But these speculations are but figments 
of history, for they presuppose a possibility too vast for imagination 
itself to conceive the possibility of an undivided Empire. On 
the other hand would statesmanship in 1769 have been worthy the 
name had it concerned itself only with the narrower and not with 
the larger vision ? 

1 Bishop Briand's Mandemcnt, Tetu, p. 327. 


Would an Assembly in 1769 have led, as Haldimand afterwards 
stated and as Knox and Carleton no doubt instinctively felt, to the 
loss of the province to the Revolution ? To men of little faith and 
of Knox's principles the answer was obvious. But it was not borne 
out by the history of Nova Scotia during the Revolution. If a 
'strict regard to the rights of the People in this Province* could 
keep New Englanders in Nova Scotia * Animated with the firmest 
attachment to the Mother Country . . . and dreading a Separation 
from her Government and protection, as the greatest political evil 
which can befall us or our posterity V the conciliation of a primitive 
and conservative French population in Quebec ought not to have 
been impossible. 'Little, very little,' as Murray had written to the 
Board of Trade, 'will content the New Subjects/ 2 Lotbiniere 
himself, the spokesman of the seigneurs at the bar of the House, 
had conceded that the 'natural inclinations of the Canadians' 
favoured an Assembly, 'provided they were allowed to be a part 
of it themselves'. Their apathy was due to 'having been informed, 
that, in that assembly, they would not be allowed as Roman 
Catholics, to sit'. 3 No more tolerant or magnanimous policy for 
Quebec had ever been devised than that of the Board of Trade in 
1769. None could say of it as Carleton himself said of the Quebec 
Act in 1775 that it was wanting in 'the appearance of more dis- 
interested Favor to the Canadians'. The propaganda in' Quebec 
from the Continental Congress, moreover, was attributable in no 
small measure to the menace of the Quebec Act itself. 

It may be urged that self-interest played no small part in the 
response of Nova Scotia. But could any play of legitimate self- 
interest in that province compare with the inducements that could 
be offered through the virtual monopoly of the lucrative fur trade 
in Canada? In that sense the extension of the boundaries to 
include the Great Lakes and practically the whole of the chief 
waterways system in North America would have subserved British 
interests as effectively under representative as under arbitrary 
government. It is one of the most remarkable facts of the Revo- 
lution that the much-maligned merchants of Quebec and even of 
Montreal remained so largely British. It was during the Revo- 

1 Reply of Assembly, in Minutes of Council, June 29, 1775, Nova Scotia, 
A. Series, 90. Address of Assembly to the Crown and Parliament of Great 
Britain, June 24, 1775, id., 94. n. 

3 Shortt and Doughty, i. 231. 

3 Cavendish's Debates, p. 162. See above, p. 129. 

34" U 


lutionary War that the Canadian fur trade began that phenomenal 
development which resulted in the North- West Company 
within twenty-five years perhaps the largest commercial enterprise 
in North America. When Carleton, with his handful of men, made 
his final stand at Quebec, 320 of them were British volunteers and 
merchants whom Murray and Carleton had disparaged as having 
no abiding interest in the province. 1 Perhaps the highest tribute 
to Carleton himself after the successful defence of Quebec is to 
be found in their Address: the 'determined Resolution, steady 
Perseverance, and unshaken Constancy, which, during the tedious 
siege of this City, shone conspicuous in every part of your Ex- 
cellency's Conduct'.- What must have been Carleton's reflections 
in forwarding that Address to Germain ? 


Had the opponents of the Quebec Act been in power in 1774 
would their policy for Quebec have been radically different? 'If 
it had fallen to Whig ministers to deal with it', writes Professor 
Coupland in his study on the Quebec Act, 'they would inevitably, 
after studying the facts, have drafted a very similar measure.'? 
With respect to many details that are sometimes regarded as 
though they were essential features of the Act this surely is the 
simple truth. The sudden reversal of French law and custom in 
Quebec in 1764 was almost universally condemned by the Board 
of Trade, by Yorke and De Grey, by Thurlow and Mansfield, by 
Maseres and Hey. With the exception of the cardinal feature of 
seigniorial tenures and the acceptance of French instead of English 
law 'as the Rule' and basis for the future, a practical compromise 
might have been much the same under any administration. With 
regard to religion, we have seen that Burke's defence of tithe itself 
was more generous than Wedderburn's ; that Fox was both more 
generous and more tolerant of political rights to Roman Catholics 
than North ; that Burke's plea for religious toleration was the most 
ingenuous appeal on either side. 

But there is a difference in spirit ; and when one compares the 

1 See Col. Allan Maclean's letter of May 28, 1776: 'The English Merchts. 
of Canada . . . were greatly soured by the preference, (which they insisted) was 
constantly given to the Canadians, and I will say that 320 British Militia of 
Quebec did their duty like brave men, many of the men, and all the Officers at 
their own Expence.' Q. Series, 12. 69. 

2 Q. Series, 12. 239. 

3 The Quebec Act, Oxford, 1925, p. 116. 


comprehensive project of the Board of Trade in 1769 with that 
which supplanted it in 1774, the difference in time, in spirit, and 
in principle, becomes in truth unmistakable. Had French- 
Canadians, who have shown themselves perhaps the most politi- 
cally minded people in Canada, been introduced into full British 
citizenship in 1769 in the spirit of magnanimous toleration, might 
not such a union at such a time have enriched Canadian history and 
Canadian politics for all generations to come ? After the manage de 
convenance in 1774 upon the basis of arbitrary governance, even 
the loyalist migrations the forgotten step-children of the union 
could be regarded by Church and seigneur as a violation of the 
spirit of the Quebec Act. And when these step-children proceeded 
to vindicate their right to the patrimony, can it be a matter of 
surprise that the step-mother began to reflect ruefully upon the 
inducements which the other contracting party had employed in 
1774? Let it be remembered that whatever had been the attitude 
of the habitants who had not been consulted, the Church and 
seigneurs, as a whole, had resolutely 'played the game*. And thus 
representative institutions after 1791 were from the first but step- 
children in Lower Canada. In such a household, charges of self- 
interest and bad faith soon poisoned domestic relations ; and when 
the other branch of the family in Upper Canada was brought in 
at the Union to readjust the balance, it is not difficult 'to under- 
stand the resentment of French Canada. Bitter and uncharitable 
though many of the judgements of Girouard and of La Fontaine 
may have been, who can deny that they had reason for their re- 
flections, and that a nobler conception of the destiny of the two 
races under British institutions at the outset might have gone far 
to establish the golden rule of toleration and of compromise ? 




FOR the British provinces the American Revolution left 'the 
American question' still unsolved. It continued without inter- 
mission in Nova Scotia, it arose in the Assemblies of Prince 
Edward Island and New Brunswick after 1773 and 1785, and it was 
resumed in the Canadas after the Constitutional Act of 1791 almost 
where the Revolution had left it except for the false lessons that 
were drawn from that still incomprehensible disaster. The course 
of the second Empire for fifty years is thus not only reminiscent of 
the first but scarcely distinguishable from it. 

The auguries at least for the old system were more favourable. 
The loyalists 30,000 in the Maritime Provinces and 10,000 in 
Upper Canada could be relied upon, as William Knox reflected, 
to be 'abhorrers of Republicanism'. Many of them, as we have 
seen, had 'had enough of Assemblies'. Burke's 'unsuspecting con- 
fidence' was again in the ascendant. If the first Empire, as Knox 
maintained, had failed through lack of 'system', the second could 
now be systematized at leisure. The virtues of the old colonial sys- 
tem, it seemed, had sprung from the executive ; the disasters, from 
the Assemblies and a Continental Congress. Carleton himself, now 
Lord Dorchester and Governor- General, could fortify the first; 
the disintegration of the remaining provinces seemed to forestall 
the others. Nova Scotia was broken into four fragments, three of 
which were never to be reunited. One was denied an Assembly 
altogether. Prince Edward Island , as we have seen , narrowly escaped 
the same fate. Knox proposed a fifth province on the St. Croix. 
Quebec was broken into Upper and Lower Canada. Permanent 
revenues robbed 'the power of the purse' of its terrors or trans- 
ferred it bodily to the executive. 

Not only the American Revolution but the French soon cast its 
shadow over colonial policy. Aristocracy and an established 
church bulwarks against revolutionary Europe were to be 
planted in the American wilderness. The good sense of Dorchester 
and the wit of Fox saved Canada from Pitt's scheme of an heredi- 
tary aristocracy as 'the true poise . . . of the constitution', 1 but with 
the strengthening of the councils 'the American question' trans- 

1 'The sort of titles meant to be given were not named in the bill ; he pre- 


formed itself from a contest between the colony and the mother 
country into a contest between two sets of interests both within 
the colony, one claiming by virtue of appointment and the other by 
virtue of representation to control the executive. The issue was 
further localized by projects for an established church. The results 
here were quicker and more disastrous. * Every attempt on the 
part of the Government to give pre-eminence to the Church', the 
staunchest of Anglican judges once observed in Nova Scotia, 
'creates ten enemies for one friend'. In one province at least the 
Clergy Reserves jeopardized at last not only the future of the 
Church but the whole cause of authoritarian governance. Thus the 
second Empire which began with the same system as the first, with 
tried materials and with an ideal environment, ran almost the 
same course. In 1838 Robert Baldwin solemnly affirmed to Lord 
Durham that without responsible government the Canadas could 
be held by * troops alone'. A few years later Howe wrote desper- 
ately to Charles Buller that the cause of reform would soon be 
championed 'by the Enemies of England, not by her friends'. The 
second Empire was saved at last by wiser counsels and better men. 
It was not saved without a conflict, but the conflict was parliamen- 
tary not military, and the victors were to be found on both sides of 
the Atlantic. 

The course of this second Empire for fifty years is too vast a 
theme to be attempted here. Two rebellions in the Canadas and 
the most famous Report in colonial history are to be found in this 
period. But many of the problems which Durham found there, 
like the conditions out of which they arose, were abnormal and 
indeed unique in the second Empire. The 'proprietary' type of 
province they knew, and the 'royal' province they knew, but what 
were the Canadas ? The first type survived in Rupert's Land and 
in some of the worst features of Prince Edward Island ; the 'royal' 
type developed, upon the whole in 'harmony and moderation', in 
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. But the old province created by 
the Quebec Act was a prodigy a single province by statute in 1774 
with a 'constitution such as the world never saw before'; two 
provinces by statute in 1791 with a constitution which could be 
abrogated altogether in one of them in 1838 for what Durham and 
Sydenham both conceded to be a 'despotism'; a united province 
again by statute in 1841, with problems indeed which defied solu- 

sumed the reason was, they could not be named without creating laughter.' 
Fox in Parliamentary Register , xlvi. 391. 


tion by any other expedient. Glimpses, nevertheless, of 'the great 
arcanum' of responsible government are to be found very early 
in the contest. First perhaps in point of time as in point of un- 
wavering and incorruptible consistency, the Baldwins, father and 
son, reached 'the great principles' in their final form. Robert 
Baldwin's memorandum to Glenelg in 1836, enclosed in a still 
more urgent appeal to Durham two years later, remains the most 
accurate formula of responsible government up to that time. 1 It is 
to be found among the Durham Papers , and there can be no doubt 
that Durham had it before him when the Report was written, 
though his own apostolic ardour required perhaps no such stimulus. 
But Baldwin's indomitable 'principle' and Durham's Report alike 
received their vindication after the Union, not before it ; and indeed 
the Report itself beneath its classic diction and consummate liter- 
ary art scarcely conceals the political turmoil out of which it arose. 
No such task in Canada ever challenged the resourcefulness of 
one man. All three of the major problems of Canadian history 
race, responsible government, and confederation clamoured at 
once for solution. Durham's plans for the last were abortive and 
had to be abandoned for a union of the Canadas . The first involved 
him in one of the most disastrous miscalculations in Canadian 
history a prophecy which the French race in Canada resolutely 
set itself to falsify. Durham's incomparable project of responsible 
government became, in Charles Buller's phrase, 'the textbook of 
every advocate of colonial freedom' ; but even this was based upon 
British analogies rather than upon the cogency of colonial con- 
ditions, for its context in the Report is the province of Lower 
Canada which by common consent was at that time ungovernable. 
All this, however, is a commentary not upon the most dynamic of 
colonial state papers but upon the conditions which Durham found 
in Canada. Thus while Nova Scotia and Canada were the first to 
force responsible government in its final form, there was a differ- 

1 Durham Papers, Report of Public Archives, 1923, 326 ff. Baldwin's memo- 
randum to Glenelg was printed in Brit. Parl. Papers , Mar. 22, 1839 (41), 32 ff. 

Baldwin states that 'as early as 1820 . . . some of the Leading Members . . . 
adopted the principles now contended for as a part of their political creed, and 
assumed it as necessarily pertaining as much to the provincial Constitution as 
to that of the Mother Country.' Ibid. Robert Baldwin in 1820 was 16 years of 
age. To his father, Dr. W. W. Baldwin, probably belongs the distinction of 
formulating adequately the 'principles' for the first time. See Miss Dunham's 
admirable study of Political Unrest in Upper Canada, 1815-1836) Longmans, 
1927, p. 166 et passim. For Fairbanks's Memorandum of 1830 for Nova Scotia 
see below, p. 157. 


ence between them in temper which reflected a vaster difference in 
historical background. What was the bearing of these two contests 
upon each other? 


When Sydenham went to Nova Scotia in 1840 to adjust in per- 
son the relations between Sir Colin Campbell and his Assembly 
perhaps the neatest of all the contests for responsible government 
his secretary Murdock drew upon a long experience at the Colonial 
Office to draft a confidential memorandum for his guidance. 
Murdock noted the 'demand for a responsible Executive Council' 
from Nova Scotia, 'before the question was mooted in Upper 
or Lower Canada*, but he was at a loss to explain the absence 
of that 'exasperation' which had marked the Canadian con- 
test. 'The facts (he conceded) speak volumes . . . and it is extra- 
ordinary that these facts, notorious as they must have been, were 
never brought under the notice of the Government until 1837. Jl 
Such were the traditions of decorum in Nova Scotia and the result, 
Murdock 's own complacency in 1840, as we shall see, arose, it may 
be, from the same 'exemplary forbearance and moderation' still in 
evidence among the Nova Scotia reformers. The government, he 
added, 'could look with perfect confidence to the support of the 
People of Nova Scotia. . . .There is no disposition to carry out those 
views so far as to endanger the connection with the ^ Mother 

The oldest Assembly of the second 'American empire' was also 
the first to win the formal concession of responsible government. 
It is a tradition that this achievement was largely due to the method ; 
that the low road of moderation was shorter in the end than the 
high road of the Canadian 'Ultras'. Nowhere were the courtesies 
of official intercourse or the standards of honour in public life 
more scrupulously guarded than under the old Halifax 'Compacts'. 
The magnanimity and moderation of the Reformers belonged to 
the same tradition, and it was Howe's boast that responsible 
government was finally won without bloodshed, without a blow, 
without the breaking of a pane of glass. With that tradition the 
general conclusions of this essay will be found to agree, but it may 
be the more necessary to bear in mind from the outset the lesson 
of Murdock 's insouciance in 1840. The Nova Scotia Reformers 
may have owed more than they were willing to acknowledge to the 
turbulence of the Canadian agitator. 

' Pub. Arch. Can., G. Series, 265. 8. * Ibid. 


To Howe and Uniacke it seemed that the cause of reform was 
altogether unnecessarily jeopardized not only by the Papineau and 
Mackenzie risings but by the uncompromising temper of the 
'Metcalfe crisis'. On the other hand La Fontaine, whose opinions 
were seldom charitable, never acquitted Howe of self-righteousness 
and time-serving. Even Howe's open letter to Hincks in the 
Montreal Pilot failed to remove this bias. *I have not more confi- 
dence in him*, wrote La Fontaine, 'for all that'. 1 In truth, however, 
the two struggles, mutually obstructive as they seemed at times, 
were mutually helpful and indeed complementary. The methods 
were different, but so were the conditions. Each remedied the 
gravest defects of the other. The one was the first, the easiest, the 
most natural, and perhaps the most skilfully executed, of all the 
achievements of responsible government. The other was incom- 
parably the most difficult, the most complicated, and by virtue of 
its very size and importance the most critical. Had it not been for 
the Canadian impasse the issue might have been won in Nova 
Scotia in 1840. Had it not been for Canada, on the other hand, 
Nova Scotia might never have been prepared to sacrifice cherished 
traditions in order to force the issue to a conclusion. The deluge of 
print in the British Parliamentary Papers after the Canadian re- 
bellions bears witness in itself to a new interest in colonial policy. 
For the first time since the American Revolution it played a major 
part in British politics. The aim of this and the following essay 
will be to trace these two converging attacks upon the old colonial 
system. Both are essentially studies in parliamentary tactics. The 
armies were political parties in the old Province Building at 
Halifax, in the House at Toronto, at Kingston, and at Montreal. 
Supported by the active counsel, as we shall see, of more than one 
British statesman the result transformed the second Empire and 
changed the whole basis of its unity. 


The British temper of Nova Scotia was rooted in the traditions of 
the American Revolution. Many of these were indigenous, spring- 
ing from pre-revolutionary sources in the New England migrations. 
Others were loyalist in their origin, and Murdock's note of a 

1 La Fontaine to Baldwin, May 25, 1844. Baldwin Papers (copies of originals 
in the Ontario Provincial Library), Pub. Arch. Can., i. 15. 


'natural sluggishness of the people' is not altogether complimen- 
tary. On the other hand, the freedom fro m^'political dissensions' was 
not, as Murdock thought, due to the 'remoteness from American 
institutions and habits'. The intercourse, in fact, was more friendly 
than appeared upon the surface. As local feuds subsided in the 
United States thousands of the loyalists had returned without com- 
punction and 'remained Citizens of that Government.' 1 During 
the War of 1812 the sympathies of New England were notoriously 
pro-British, and the illicit commercial intercourse was lucrative to 
both parties. A joint address of council and Assembly in Nova 
Scotia bears witness to the 'proud and just spirit of their British 
ancestors' in 'our nearest neighbours in the United States'. In 
1817 Dalhousie notes that 'the connection between the respectable 
inhabitants of this Province, and the States, is yet very intimate; 
scarcely is there a family that has not Fathers, Brothers, and near 
relations settled there'. This, however, did not imply 'the most 
distant doubt of the Loyalty of this Province.' 2 

The rescue of Nova Scotia from 'frontier' dependence upon New 
England becomes a commonplace in the pages of Haliburton and 
of Howe. It was perhaps the most solid ground which they had 
in common. But their methods were characteristically different. 
Haliburton 's were imitative. British traditions of prestige and social 
intercourse were to be cherished with all the indiscriminate ardour 
of a Simcoe. Satire, however, is seldom convincing ; and the satire 
upon American tendencies and what Haliburton regarded as their 
counterpart in Nova Scotia is put somewhat unfairly into the 
inimitable jargon of the Yankee pedlar Sam Slick himself. Hali- 
burton may have confirmed some of his friends, but he confirmed 
also his opponents and he made no converts. Howe's remedy on 
the other hand was creative not to imitate the British but to be 
British; not to emulate artificial standards but to rely upon the 
simple 'law that like breeds like'. 3 In stressing the self-respect and 
enterprise that accompany as well as produce self-government 
Howe was nearer to the genius of the race than Haliburton. Thus, 
like Elgin, and long before him, Howe sought the antidote to 
American republicanism in British self-government, and he had 
the same robust faith in its superiority. It is curious to find 
Haliburton the son of a pre-revolutionary New Englander and 

1 Dalhousie to Bathurst, Dec. 14, 1817. A. Series, 157. 159 (C.O. 217). 
a Id., 160. 59; 157. no. 

3 Adderley, Review of Colonial History, 1869, p. n. 
341* x 


Howe the son of a Massachusetts loyalist thus reversing the tradi- 
tions of their origin. 

In other respects Murdock's diagnosis was less faulty. From the 
problems of race and the worst issues of religion which convulsed 
the Canadas Nova Scotia was singularly free. The Clergy Reserves 
which Sydenham called 'the root of all the troubles of the province, 
the cause of the rebellion . . . the perpetual source of discord, 
strife, and hatred' had no counterpart in Nova Scotia. By 1828 
scarcely more than one-fifth of the population of the province 
belonged to the Anglican Church, 1 and the bishop 'himself con- 
ceded that an endowment of crown lands would be 'worse than 
useless'. In 1811 the attempt to commute the quit rents for 
legislative support for the Anglican Church was rejected in the 
Assembly, even by Anglicans themselves, 'without a dissentient 
vote'. 2 Nor had the refusal of the Upper Canadian council for 
many years to countenance marriage by clergy other than the 
established churches of England and Scotland been repeated in 
Nova Scotia. Dalhousie himself took the orthodox view, but the 
Supreme Court broke through the practice, and a joint Address of 
council and Assembly found many of its ablest advocates in the 
Anglican Church. 'It can only be injured in the Province of Nova 
Scotia', they added, 'by the misguided zeal of its intemperate 
friends/ Brenton Halliburton, afterwards Chief Justice, in a 
masterly report once stated bluntly that 'every attempt on the part 
of Government to give pre-eminence to the Church creates ten 
enemies for one friend. . . . People on this side of the water are even 
more tenacious of religious equality than of political. . . . The 
generality of Churchmen themselves participate in it'. 3 Perhaps the 
fate of Bishop Inglis in Nova Scotia had something to do with Bishop 
Strachan's uncompromising tenacity in Upper Canada. Religious 
strife played no small part, as we shall see, in the politics of Nova 
Scotia , but there were cross-currents which neutralized its bitterness . 


The economic conditions of the province were also less for- 
bidding for many years than in Upper Canada. The population 
in 1828 was 142,548. It was not until the 'thirties that Nova 
Scotia was outdistanced in the race for second place among the 

1 Kempt to Huskisson, May 12, 1828, A. Series, 169. 55. The figures were 
31,199 out of 142,548. 

2 Id., 167. 151, 158. 'The Resolutions . . . were brought in by a Churchman.' 
Id., 169. 49. 3 Id., 160. 16, 25; 169. 105 ff. 


British provinces; though the union of the Canadas in 1841 
naturally dwarfed every other province in British North America. 
In 1828 Sir Peregrine Maitland upon his arrival from Upper 
Canada was 'most grateful for the advancement to this Govern- 
ment as it is a proof of His Majesty's confidence and favor'. 
Distances were short and no point was more than a few miles from 
the sea. The roads, as Governor Kempt reported in 1827, were 
'probably better than in any other Colony', with 250 miles of 
carriage roads in both directions from Halifax. 'Not a single case 
of bankruptcy has occurred in the whole Province for many years/ l 

Agriculture, though primitive, had entered upon a new era with 
the publication of Young's Letters of Agricola (1818), in the Aca- 
dian Recorder. Dalhousie's interest in the agricultural progress of 
the province was unbounded. Available capital, however, found its 
way chiefly into the fisheries, the lumber trade, shipping and ship- 
building. In 1830 there were 1,321 ships owned in Nova Scotia, 
with a seafaring population of nearly 4,500 men. The Cunard 
shipping interests had their humble origin in Halifax, and in 1842 
Bagot's genial friend Haddington 'Neptunus Britannicus', first 
Lord of the Admiralty could already write of 'Cunarding it' 
across the Atlantic. The best traditions of the British Navy 
flourished at Halifax. Many a snug fortune had its origin in cap- 
tured French or American ships put up at auction by the Vice- 
Admiralty Court twenty-three on one accasion in a single day. 
Naval and military expenditures, too, wrought insidiously, as Mur- 
dock surmised, 'to produce an apathy, in regard to public events'. 2 

Provincial politics reflected these conditions and were frequently 
dominated by them. Halifax was long the only free port in the 
province ; it was not until 1839 that a delegation from the Assembly 
Herbert Huntington and William Young vindicated at the 
Board of Trade the right to have free ports 'as many as the 
Assembly desired'. The banking interests of the province, the 
predominant mercantile interests with their British, West Indian, 
and foreign connexions, the garrison, the government, and the 
chief naval station in the North Atlantic were all concentrated at 
Halifax. At the meetings of the Legislature the 'stout yeomen of 
the counties' found their meagre fortunes and hard-driven thrift 
in constant contrast to the vice-regal state and wealth much of 
it adventitious which met them on every hand at the capital. 
Official circles, responding to the social standards of Government 
1 Id., 169. 85; 168. 18. J G. Series, 265. 8. 


House, the garrison, and the navy, claimed the affluence and affected 
the exclusiveness of a governing class. For many years every mem- 
ber but one of the Executive and Legislative council lived in 
Halifax. Five of the twelve were at one time partners in the Halifax 
Banking Company. All but three belonged to the Church of 
England which comprised but one-fifth of the population. The 
most resolute opponent of responsible government in the council 
himself at one time a Reformer in the Assembly once observed 
in a confidential memorandum that 'our House, are comparatively 
poor men', whereas the Simondses and the Johnstons and the 
Cranes in the Assembly of New Brunswick were all 'men of con- 
siderable and some of them of large property'. 1 

In truth the social life at Halifax, graced at times by princes of 
the blood in the garrison or the navy, revealed tendencies both 
good and bad. A long train of periodicals from the Nova Scotia 
Magazine of 1789 to the Halifax Monthly of 1830 reflected the 
taste of the select circles to which they appealed. One of the first 
of provincial histories Haliburton's Historical and Statistical 
Account of Nova Scotia appeared in 1829. In its wake came the 
beginnings of a provincial literature. But there was another side 
to what Maitland called 'the highest class of society here '. More 
than one governor notes the straining after impossible standards ; 
and James Stephen in one of his discerning minutes for Lord John 
Russell in 1840 has a true word about 'the extinction of Public 
Spirit in the effeminate passion for mere social and fashionable 
distinction'. In truth the real opinion of the province is to be 
found elsewhere. The Hollands in the Acadian Recorder, Jotham 
Blanchard in the Colonial Patriot, Joseph Howe in The Novascotian 
struck a truer note of native wit and robust local patriotism. From 
this source came the challenge to the old order. 


Nothing but downright merit, however, could have commanded 
the respect so long enjoyed by the Executive and Legislative 
Council of Nova Scotia. In Upper Canada the two councils were 
separate a fact which simplified immeasurably the objective of 
the Reformers. In Nova Scotia the same personnel discharged 
both functions. Appointed nominally 'during pleasure', they sat 
in effect for life. In more than one instance an office remained for 

1 Pub. Arch. Can., C.O. 217 (photostat copies, after 1831, from the Public 
Record Office), 165. 693. 


two or three generations in the same family. At the time of the 
famous 'brandy dispute* in 1830, Chief Justice Blowers had held 
office since 1788 ; the Treasurer, Michael Wallace, since 1802 ; the 
Attorney-General, R. J. Uniacke, and the Surveyor-General, 
Charles Morris, since 1808; Jeffrey, the Collector of Customs, since 
1 8 1 1 . The normal tone of the Assembly and the press was respect- 
ful to the point of veneration, and it is easy to imagine the horror 
of the Levites when Howe laid impious hands upon the shewbread. 
The violence of their resentment was at least a measure of their 
sensitiveness to the slightest taint of public dishonour. To this 
must be added the sterling worth of Sherbrooke, Dalhousie, and 
Kempt. Whatever their subsequent fortunes as governors of 
Lower Canada they commanded 'unbounded confidence' in Nova 
Scotia. 'Everything continues to go on here*, wrote Kempt in 
1820, 'in the usual jog-trot way/ l 

One result of this mutual confidence was very far-reaching an 

assured access from all quarters to the governor and to the Colonial 

Office. In this the Speaker of the Assembly was upon as sure a 

footing as those who could write 'honourable' before their names. 

Thus, while the Upper Canadian Tories could pillory 'Goosie' 

Goderich for granting an interview to Mackenzie, and could deter 

even Glenelg from granting an interview to Robert Baldwin who 

had crossed the Atlantic for that purpose in 1836, the intercourse 

from Nova Scotia remained unbroken. R. J. Uniacke met Bathurst 

and Horton in 1826 as 'quite a veteran in the King's service', and 

left in the pigeon-holes of Downing Street the first serious project 

for a British Confederation .* Four years later, in 1830, Charles R. 

Fairbanks left with Hay at the Colonial Office an elaborate 

memorandum upon the Executive Council of Nova Scotia, 

anticipating Lord John Russell's famous dispatch of October 16, 

1840, and containing a proposal of momentous import: 

'The remedy is to be found in applying to the colonies the same 

principles on which the Government is conducted at home and by 

seeking in the House some at least of the Advisers of the Executive. 

. . . Seats in the Executive Councils . . . can consequently be held only 

during pleasure. ... It can hardly be questioned that the House of 

Representatives ought to possess powers similar to those exercised by 

the House of Commons. They have repeatedly claimed these as their 

rights and will exercise them/ 3 

1 To Goulburn. A. Series , 161. 43. 

* Id. y 167. 334 ff. See Can. Hist. Rev., 1925, p. 142, ed. Trotter. 

5 June i, 1830. A. Series, 172. 86 ff. ; C.O. 217, 151. 257-282. 


In this the Assemblyman could rely as confidently as the Coun- 
cillor upon a sympathetic hearing at the Colonial Office : as Crane, 
Chandler, Simonds, and Wilmot from New Brunswick, Young 
and Huntington from Nova Scotia could attest. When Howe went 
to London in 1838 he sent in his card to Murdock at the Colonial 
Office without introduction and was taken in for a half-hour with 
Glenelg himself a 'very affable intelligent grey-haired and brail (?) 
headed looking Scotchman', notes Howe in his diary; 'what passed 
not fit to put into Note Book which might fall into other hands'. 

This freedom of intercourse, however, had also its samy side in 
the interminable scramble for office and promotion. In Nova 
Scotia the game was played with almost quixotic chivalry, but the 
recurrence of the Speaker's name in that company is suggestive. 
No fewer than four of the Executive Councillors had passed 
through the Assembly and had earned the good graces of the 
Executive in the Speaker's chair. One of them was afterwards 
known to observe that the 'Supply of Patriots' in the Assembly was 
becoming 'greater than the demand, and they will thwart and em- 
barrass the Executive Government because it cannot employ and 
reward them.' * It is easy to account for Sherbrooke's tactics with 
Papineau in Lower Canada. 'If a more turbulent and energetic 
individual at times arose', observes Murdock in his preliminary 
sketch of the Sydenham regime, 'it was easy by well-timed con- 
cession, to disarm his opposition, if not to secure his support.' 2 

Murdock 's failure to detect the change in 1840 is thus easily 
understood, for S. W. G. Archibald was still Speaker of the Nova 
Scotia Assembly, and no more adroit and resourceful moderator 
ever officiated there. In 1825 ne reminded Governor Kempt that 
his 'influence in the popular branch of the Legislature has ever 
been felt in support of the Executive Government'. A few years 
later, when his advice was sought upon the turmoil in Prince 
Edward Island, he added that 'Colonial Assemblies require to be 
moulded by men of good understanding and honest intentions . . . 
otherwise they will produce little else than vexation 5 . When the 
conflict came with the Council on the 'brandy dispute' in 1830 
Archibald's stand was correspondingly effective. 'No man in this 
Assembly', he could say truly, 'has exerted himself more than 
I have done to preserve the peace and order of the Colony, and no 
man has been more successful than myself in that particular; 

1 A. Series, 173. 14 (C.O. 227, vol. 152). 

2 Scrope, Memoir of the Life of Lord Sydenham t 1843, p. 117. 


indeed, so far have I gone, that I have not escaped some censure*. 
An enraptured Assemblyman on that occasion exclaimed that 
Archibald's great speech 'would follow him as long as he lived, and 
would be looked back upon with pride by his children/ I 

The traditions of 'honourable ambition', however, were not yet 
broken. Archibald himself became Attorney-General in 1830 and 
aspired higher still without relinquishing the Speaker's chair. 
Stewart and Fairbanks, perhaps the most discerning of the early 
Reformers in the Assembly, in due time passed to their reward in 
the Executive Council and the Court of Vice- Admiralty. A few 
lines in Howe's commonplace-book must have done service many 
a time upon the hustings against some of his opponents, once his 
allies in reform : 

As Bees, on Flowers alighting, cease their hum 
So, settling upon Places, Whigs grow dumb. 

For Howe, too, the honeyed trap was spread, and many a per- 
plexed bureaucrat Murdock among the number thought that 
this was the remedy for the troubles of Nova Scotia in 1840. But 
he misjudged Howe, and, as we shall see, he misjudged the game 
that was afoot in the Assembly of Nova Scotia. 


The spirit and temper of the Nova Scotia Assembly had upon 
the whole run true to form since the recall of Governor Legge 
during the American Revolution. From 1818 until the Trade Acts 
of 1826 it was chiefly concerned with the commercial restrictions 
of the old colonial system. From 1826 to 1829 there was a memor- 
able contest with the British Treasury and Customs Commission- 
ers for the control of customs revenues. In 1830 the Assembly 
joined issue with the council in the 'brandy dispute', and fairly 
carried off the honours of the contest for both temper and modera- 
tion. All three were preliminary to the debates of 1834 wu ^ which 
the contest for responsible government may be said to open. 

In the first of these, council and Assembly were in complete 
agreement. After the convention of 1818 with the United States, 
as John Young in his Letters of Agricola notes bitterly, 'the Ameri- 
can flag waves triumphant in the port of Halifax' while provincial 
shipping was almost completely excluded from foreign trade. 

1 A. Series, 166. 133 (C.O. 277, vol. 144). Archibald to Kempt, May 12, 
1828, id., 169. 64 (C.O. J/7, vol. 148). The Novascotian, April i, 1830. 


A joint Address of the council and Assembly 'as the senior British 
Government in the North American Colonies' invited 'all the 
Inhabitants of British America ... to unite with us not in factious 
or seditious murmurings', for * faction and sedition meet no en- 
couragement in this Province', but in an appeal to the Confidence 
and assistance of the Mother Country': 

'It is immediately necessary that the Colonies, in addition to the 
privileges they now enjoy, should be allowed the same freedom of 
trade with all the world which the people of the United States have 
acquired.' 1 

The work of Huskisson in substituting reciprocity for monopoly 
in the old mercantile system, the opening of Halifax and other 
ports to foreign shipping, and the Trade Acts of 1826 which pro- 
vided virtually 'an unrestricted Traffic with all Countries' are 
features all too lightly stressed in the transformation of the second 
Empire. 'Had the administration of His late Majesty met the 
wishes of the North American Colonies fifty years ago with the 
same liberality', stoutly asserted the aged Uniacke in his Proposal 
for Confederation in that year, * there cannot be a doubt that the 
separation of that Country from the British Crown would not have 
taken place'. 2 The direct influence of the Address of 1818 and of 
petitions innumerable from Nova Scotia would be hard to estimate, 
but the temper was exemplary, and in a province predominantly 
commercial perhaps no severer test could have been devised for it. 

The second incident brought the Assembly and the British 
Treasury into direct conflict. Among other abuses the Acts of 
1826 had abolished the fees of the customs officials, but by the 
instructions of the Customs Commissioners their salaries were to 
be paid directly from the revenues collected at colonial ports, thus 
violating, as the Assembly maintained, the Declaratory Act of 
1778 which had placed the duties for the regulation of trade 
'entirely under the controul, and at the disposal, of the Colonial 
Legislatures'. The new regulations, wrote Governor Kempt, 
* excited a considerable sensation in this Colony 5 . 3 

During the session of 1826, the House, responding to an appeal 
to 'continue to be a Pattern to other Colonies for Moderation and 
Harmony in its Legislative Proceedings', restricted its protest to 

7 Report of Committee and Address in A. Series, 160. 59 ff. 
* April n, 1826, id., 167. 337. 

3 Journals, Apr. 4, 1826; Kempt to Bathurst, May 14, 1826, A. Series, 167. 
67 (C.O. 217, vol. 146). 


an Address of 'temperate and respectful remonstrance against 
those infringements of the Constitutional Rights of the Assembly*. 
The next year they asserted 'with all deference and respect, but 
firmly and distinctly . . . that the appropriation of such Duties can 
originate only in this House', and proceeded to appropriate the 
customs revenues to the salaries of the officials, 'the rest to be paid 
to the Provincial Treasury*. The Bill passed unanimously. While 
it was under discussion, wrote the governor, 'the Legislative pro- 
ceedings of the Sister Colony on the same subject were received 
by the Members of the Assembly, and I cannot be surprised that 
the People of this Province should feel, as they do feel, proud that 
a course has been pursued here strongly marked by a different 
Spirit.' 'No other Colony has made such an offer/ The Assembly 
was disposed to be 'liberal and moderate in all their Proceedings 
and thereby set a good example to the other Colonies*. 1 Two years, 
however, passed in silence from the Treasury, and finally in 1829 
an exhaustive report upon the whole issue was drawn up by a com- 
mittee of the House. The right was 'manifestly one which this 
House ought not, under any circumstances, to compromise or 
relinquish'. The report bears the signature of Charles R. Fair- 
banks. The following year, on the motion of Alexander Stewart, 
the House resolved to hold all customs officials 'personally respons- 
ible* for all disbursements other than those 'specifically /directed 
by the Assembly of this Province'.- There is no evidence that the 
'different Spirit' of Nova Scotia was deeply appreciated in Down- 
ing Street, but, though virtue had to be its own reward, the temper 
of the House had again been exemplary. 3 

With the 'brandy dispute' of 1830 one enters the orbit of 
reform. 'The restoration of harmony', Fairbanks wrote in his 
Memorandum of that year, 'is not to be expected until after very 
material changes of Men and measures.' 4 The details of the dis- 
pute have little interest here. In 1830 the Assembly discovered 
to their astonishment that a tax of is. ^d. on brandy since 1826 had 

1 Id., 167. 6 1 ; Journals, Apr. 4, 1826, Feb. 23, 1827; A. Series, 170. 48; 168. 
42, 10. 

2 Journals, Mar. 23, 1829; Apr. 12, 1830. 

3 Cf. Maitland to Murray, July 7, 1830: 'The Assembly piqued themselves 
on doing handsomely in making a provision which had been so coarsely refused 
in a neighbouring Province and granted by none of the other Colonies, and 
I understand much mortification was expressed in the course of the last Session 
that nothing had since been heard of their Act.' A. Series, 171. 163 (C.O. 217, 
vol. 150). 

4 Fairbanks to Hay, June i, 1830, id., 172. 86 (C.O. 217, vol. 151). 
3412 Y 


not been collected on account of a technicality. In re-enacting the 
Bill the Assembly 'spoke a language upon the Subject which could 
not be misconstrued'. At a joint conference both Houses were un- 
compromising, but the Bill finally reached the council only two 
days before the old revenue laws were to expire. The council, 
sensing deliberate discourtesy, rejected the Bill, and within a few 
hours the merchants of Halifax were clearing the warehouses 
* without paying a single farthing to the Province'. The Assembly 
re-enacted the Revenue Bill, but the council refused 'to hold 
further communication with a Body of men, who had thus out- 
raged the rules which regulate the intercourse of Gentlemen'. The 
province thus lost a revenue of 25,000. It would be hard to find 
a more quixotic reversal of 'the power of the purse'. The council, 
with salaries assured by permanent enactments, had 'cut off the 
supplies' because the Assembly had granted the Crown too much 
revenue. The Assembly had become the 'Guardians' of the 
province and the sponsors of 'the King's government'. 1 

Beyond a doubt personalities played no small part in the contest. 
Hartshorn, a sturdy old Quaker, and J. B. Uniacke, afterwards 
first premier of the province under responsible government, both 
reproached the Assembly with inviting the rebuff. But Archibald, 
the Speaker, carried an overwhelming majority of 3 1 to 5 against 
the council : 

'This is not a matter of pence but of principle. . . . The rejection of 
a Revenue Bill . . . will form a new era in the History of the Province. 
. . . This is my native land, and my home . . . but if its freedom is 
lost ... I would travel from it as far as the City of Destruction. . . . 

They have distracted the peace of a Colony, the most quiet and 
orderly within the wide circuit of His Majesty's realms. ... A more 
peaceable and well disposed population than that of Nova Scotia do 
not exist. . . . Why then is it necessary to goad us into ill humour ? . . . 

God knows I come with reluctance to this discussion and bring to 
it a melancholy mind.' 2 

The fact that the aim of the council was to 'preserve the Pro- 
vince from the domination of a Democratic faction' is a curious 
commentary upon the old order in Nova Scotia. To Sir George 
Murray himself, Wallace the Administrator of the province in 

1 The Novascotian, Apr. i, 1830. Statement of council, July i, 1830, A. Series, 
171. 134 (C'.O. ^/7, vol. 150). Journals, Apr. 13, 1830. 
3 Debates of Apr. i and Apr. 5 in The Novascotian. 


Maitland's absence roundly charged the new temper of the 
Assembly upon the British Select Committee of 1828 and 'its 
hasty report upon Colonial affairs, without sufficient and impartial 
information'. The * spirit of Faction and of Turbulence' had been 
'encouraged by the success which has attended the workings of 
a similar spirit in other places'. 1 A new Assembly elected in the 
summer of 1830 passed the Revenue Bill a third time with resolu- 
tion not to be mistaken, and the council without comment bowed 
to the storm. But again the oil was poured upon the troubled 
waters. Jeffrey, Archibald's friend, became Administrator, and 
Archibald himself became Attorney-General. Three years later 
both again reported 'the utmost harmony'. 'A more harmonious, 
and orderly, Session of the Legislature was never Witnessed in this 
Province.' Renewed harmony was ascribed to 'the good under- 
standing . . . between the President of the Council, and the Speaker 
of the House'. 2 


The debate of 1834 on the functions of the council is the clearest 
forecast of responsible government up to that time, but it still 
belongs obviously to the old order. There is no concert as yet 
among the reformers. Upon several of the resolutions Huntington 
and Fairbanks found themselves in a helpless minority. 'On the 
main point', said Fairbanks, 'I differ most entirely.' 

On December 8, 1832, Goderich had suggested, for Nova 
Scotia as for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the separa- 
tion of the Executive and Legislative Councils. Jeffrey with cool 
nonchalance replied in March 1833, that he had 'not deemed it 
advisable to bring the subject' even before the council on account 
of its 'tendency to disturb the peaceful state of the Colony'. When 
the debate in the Assembly became inevitable in 1834 Jeffrey in- 
formed the House through the Speaker of Goderich's dispatch 
in order that the Assembly should not be able to assume 'the whole 
merit of originating' the policy. 3 

The debate itself after three days of dispassionate discussion 
resulted in two innocuous resolutions, 4 but in the speeches of 

1 Wallace to Murray, May 10, 1830; Statement of council, July i, 1830. A. 
Series, 171. 16, 125. 

1 C.O. 21 7, 155. 173, 183. From 1831 the Nova Scotia papers in the Pub. 
Arch. Can. are photostat copies of the Colonial Office records. 

3 Id., 155. 145; 156. 437, 'Confidential'. 

4 For the separation of the councils and the opening of the debates of the 
Legislative Council to the public. Journals, Feb. 15, 21, 1834. 


Stewart and Fairbanks, Blanchard and Doyle, as reported in The 
Novascotian by the hand of Joseph Howe himself, one detects at 
last a stirring in the tops of the mulberry trees. Nowhere, said 
Stewart, was there 'such a combination of power . . . except per- 
haps in the Borough of Cashel, in Ireland, where the Mayor of the 
Corporation was the Grand Papa, his twelve sons and sons in 
law the Aldermen and the twenty four Common Councilmcn, so 
closely connected that they could not enter into the holy bonds of 
matrimony with the Aldermen's daughters'. Fairbanks, then 
Solicitor-General, recapitulated his memorandum of 1830 for the 
Colonial Office : 

'In England the people operate upon the King through the Ministers, 
and these have seats in the Legislature. So far from this being the 
case in Canada, there the Assembly deprived Mr. Mondelet of his 
seat because he accepted the situation of an Executive Councillor. . . . 
Let the Executive Council be chosen . . . from both branches of the 
Legislature and from others unconnected with either. Let a part of 
them come here, Sir, to seek support to the measures of the admini- 
stration; and when they cannot procure the sanction of the people's 
representatives to the measures they propose, let them either abandon 
them or resign. . . . The principles of the British Constitution ought 
to be in operation here as far as they can be introduced. . . . The 
present system cannot continue/ 

A correspondent in Halifax sent this debate in The Novascotian 
to the Colonial Secretary as a timely warning of ' those political 
troubles which now distress the Canadas' ; though one reformer at 
least in Nova Scotia regarded it, like Bob Acres 's letter to Sir 
Lucius O "Trigger, as 'too civil by half. Beyond a doubt it has a 
leisurely and academic air, unstirred as yet by the ' great winds of 
reality'. The manoeuvres still suggest the mimic battles of condot- 
tieri. Stewart's popular influence was destroyed by his removal 
to the council. Fairbanks became Master of the Rolls and Judge 
of Vice- Admiralty, and the Assembly itself in 1835 barred him in 
both capacities from the House. 1 It was the vigorous press of 
Nova Scotia with its robust local patriotism and copious reports of 
British and Canadian politics that brought the vital issues of the 
day to bear upon the time-honoured proprieties of the old order. 
Even the quixotic * brandy dispute' was less dramatic in its effect 
than the decision of the Crown in 1835 to challenge the freedom 
of the press in the person of Joseph Howe. 

1 C.O. 217, 158. 237. 



The achievement of responsible government in Nova Scotia is 
known in Canadian history chiefly in the gargantuan biography 
of Joseph Howe. When Howe was at the height of his powers few 
could come within the orbit of his influence without symptoms of 
violent attraction or repulsion. Had he hoarded his abilities with 
the narrow intensiveness of mere talent he might have left a better 
record for consistency and personal advancement. But Howe's 
abilities were more than talent, and he poured forth his abounding 
energies with almost incredible prodigality. His name is perhaps 
the first in Canadian history to have inspired a cult. The traditions 
of his native province teem with cumulative reminiscences : how 
he looked in his speech on the resolutions of 1840 with his great 
head thrown back and the joy of battle in his eye ; how he delighted 
a company on shipboard with his shrewd talk and his inimitable 
anecdotes; how he humbled himself Mike a little child' before the 
issues which he felt to be vital for his country and the Empire ; 
how he loved his native province, its lovely valleys, the healing 
solitudes of its forests and of the sea ; how he rambled to the re- 
motest villages of the province, dignifying their humble life in the 
pages of The Novascotian, repaying their adoration with his own 
abounding confidence in their firmness and their intelligence, 
boisterously kissing their wives and playing like a school-boy with 
their children; how under the inspiration of one of his 'flashes', 
as he used to call them, he could toil with daemonic energy for 
days on end at an open letter to a British statesman, a confidential 
memorandum for an under-secretary, or one of his great speeches ; 
how he could smite his enemies hip and thigh and forgive them, 
sometimes to his own undoing. 

It would be easy to criticize Howe in detail. Compared with 
Robert Baldwin in Upper Canada, whose grasp of the principles 
of responsible government from beginning to end had the uncom- 
promising precision of a Robespierre, Howe's early ideas were 
frequently instinctive and diffuse. His views in the Assembly in 
1837 are substantially those of Fairbanks in 1834 or 1830. Hincks 
in Canada was a much abler administrator, a much shrewder 
partisan, ruthless in his methods, discreet and incisive in every 
emergency. Gifted with a suppleness which Howe's rugged and 
independent spirit could not emulate, Hincks easily outdistanced 


his Nova Scotian rival in the race for Imperial favours and the 
subtler accommodations of British bankers and contractors. In 
truth Howe's genius was too exuberant for precision. He spoke 
with great fluency and wrote with ease. It was the criticism of 
busy men like Grey and Elgin that he usually spoke and wrote too 
much ; that his argument was too involved and his political judge- 
ment sometimes tainted with the cardinal sin of indiscretion. 
Much of this exuberance must have been habitual. The bulk of 
his writing was done week by week for his own day for a public 
that was known to him in every mood and that forgave in turn his 
harmless extravagances, his abounding spirits, and his egotism. 

But even in The Novascotian Howe seldom 'plodded like a man 
for working-days'. At his best the sheer exuberance of his thought 
and language, like Burke's, could transcend criticism with the ease 
and prodigality of genius. In a sense Howe is the Burke of the 
second Empire, for despite the contrast between his humble lot in 
Nova Scotia and Burke's in Georgian England both gave of their 
best to the same cause. Both saw its meaning for 'posterity down 
to remote generations'. In magnanimity, in prophetic insight into 
the workings of British traditions at their best, in the broad 
humanity which underlay a certain gorgeousness of language 
common to both, there was much in both that was 'meant for man- 
kind'. In a sense the aberrations of both in later life Burke's at 
the French Revolution and Howe's at Confederation were re- 
flexes of their early convictions. In the work which they had in 
common Howe's was the happier lot; for while Burke spent the 
profoundest intellect that ever busied itself with our politics in 
trying to goad even his own friends into activity on 'the American 
question' spinning out 'the little slender thread of a peevish and 
captious opposition' Howe's robust faith commanded a following 
without a parallel in the history of his native province. In truth 
his public was his own, for in a sense he created it. His articles in 
The Novascotian, and after 1830 his weekly Legislative Reviews, 
account for much of this mastery. But this was only half the story, 
for the confidence was mutual. After a certain 'Black Saturday' 
in 1850, in the throes of a bout with Grey and Hawes of the Colo- 
nial Office in London, Howe records in his diary thegrim reflection, 
'my countrymen have never failed me'. They had never failed 
him for the best of reasons. He had never failed them. In the 
Howe Papers is the note from Sir John Harvey (September 14, 
1846) which proved to be the prelude to the first fully responsible 


government overseas. Upon the margin is a comment in Howe's 
meticulous handwriting: "This was my first communication . . . 
from Gov't House, after my "proscription" and banishment there- 
from for several years. During all that period I was a disaffected 
and dangerous man. Now I am my Sovereign's Representative's 
most excellent and talented friend. 1 I thank God, and the steadi- 
ness and intelligence of my countrymen for the change.' 


Howe's early traditions were Tory, and another name or two, all 
too lightly esteemed, must be written here by way of prelude to the 
'reform press' of Nova Scotia. 

As early as 1827 Jotham Blanchard founded the Pictou Colonial 
Patriot to 'side with the most liberal system'. Blanchard's most 
immediate interest, perhaps, was the cause of Pictou Academy and 
the 'wee frees' against the Church of Scotland and the Anglican 
monopoly of higher education at King's. Behind Blanchard again 
was the rugged character of Dr. McCulloch, principal of the Acad- 
emy, one of those apostolic worthies who live imperishably in the 
lives of younger men of Blanchard himself, of Principal Dawson 
of McGill, of Principal Grant of Queen's, of Sir Adams Archibald, 
George R. Young, son of ' Agricola', and a host of others. One of 
Howe's innumerable biographers rates the most powerful of all 
the early influences upon his political thinking 'the strong per- 
sonality of Thomas McCulloch'. 2 Blanchard was once burnt in 
effigy for his pains, but he lived to see The Novascolian also rated 
'liberal' in politics. 'As regards yourself, wrote Howe a few months 
after the famous trial in 1835, 'I did hope to have fought under 
your banner for many a day.' But by 1835 Blanchard had become 
a 'suspicious and languid supporter' of reform while Howe had 
become the champion at once of a free press and of a people 
against 'those who have an interest in mismanaging their affairs'. 3 

Howe's family traditions were Tory, but his estrangement from 
Tory officialdom began early. His father was John Howe, staunch 
old Massachusetts loyalist, Postmaster- General, King's Printer at 
Halifax, and founder of the Weekly Chronicle. While still a 'prin- 
ter's boy' with his father he had learnt 'the caprice of men in 
office', and with curious premonitions of 'something ahead' had 

1 The opening words of Sir John Harvey's note. Howe Papers, i. 158. 

2 Pub. Arch. Can., Johnson Papers, p. 27. 

3 Howe to Blanchard, Oct. 26, 1835, Howe Papers, i. 2. Pub. Arch. Can. 


waited for 'the glorious privilege of being independent'. 1 For 
seven years in The Novascotian, however, his political views were 
remarkably dispassionate. He joined issue with Blanchard against 
Papineau in Lower Canada. He once printed a spirited warning 
to the Assembly itself that if editors could be brought to the bar of 
the House, legislators could be brought by a free press 'before the 
bar of the public'. 

But the menace to a free press came from another quarter. The 
famous libel case of 1835 was only indirectly concerned with pro- 
vincial government, though the magistrates of Halifax, pilloried 
by Howe, were appointed and defended by the Executive Council. 
Howe's aged father had once been a magistrate, and Howe himself 
had served as a grand juror. Few could have known better the 
petty abuses of taxation and contracts under such a system. When 
a letter by no means the first appeared in The Novascotian on 
January i, 1835, charging the magistrates with misconduct it was 
decided to prosecute the editor for criminal libel. 

It is sometimes forgotten that the law of the day was almost 
undoubtedly against Howe ; that his purely legal argument, as his 
biographer notes, was 'sufficiently curious'; that the Attorney- 
General, the official prosecutor, was none other than S. W. G. 
Archibald, Speaker of the Assembly; and that Howe in his own 
defence was permitted a latitude which the bench could never have 
accorded to a barrister. 'The lawyers were all very civil', Howe 
afterwards said, 'but laughed at me a good deal, quoting the old 
maxim, that "he who pleads his own case has a fool for a client". 
But the laugh was against them when all was over.' 2 His friends 
advised him to make his peace with the magistrates lest a worse 
thing befall him ; but 'I asked them to lend me their books (Howe 
adds), gathered an armful, threw myself on a sofa, and read libel 
law for a week'. For Howe himself the cause and the crowded 
court-room must have stirred for the first time unsuspected depths 
in his faculty of appealing to his countrymen. The jury returned 
a verdict of 'not guilty', and Howe was borne home from the old 
Province Building upon the shoulders of his supporters. The 
magistrates resigned, 'smitten down in a day by this single speech*. 
But the Executive Council that had appointed them was not so 

1 'We can never take the popular side. . . This while a boy I never liked and 
I know when a man I never could put up with.' Howe to his half-sister Jane, 
1824. Johnson Papers, p. 16. 

3 Chisholm, Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe, Halifax, 2 vols., 
i. 24. 


easily to be regulated. For that struggle the meaning of Howe's 
libel case was his parting appeal to his supporters to teach their 
children the names of the twelve men who had established the 
freedom of the press in Nova Scotia. 


Howe was now a marked man. He was returned for the county of 
Halifax in the elections of 1836, and within four years the Assembly 
then elected forced the neatest and most convincing demonstration 
for responsible government in the British provinces. 

Howe's rise to the leadership of the Reform Assembly, though 
rapid and spectacular, was bitterly resented by the older leaders of 
the House, and it required a veritable revolt to drill the 'New 
Model' of 1836 into the 'Old Ironsides' of 1840. The Reformers 
in 1835 were scarcely a political party. 'They have the numbers it 
is true,' wrote Howe to Blanchard, 'but in knowledge, discipline, 
able leaders, everything in fact which ensures success in any 
struggle they have been and are miserably deficient.' The war 
must 'be carried on briskly' by a 'majority pledged to the people 
and kept in salutary awe of them'. With no 'pious horror of inno- 
vation' Howe soon put an end to the mimic battles of condottieri 
for 'honourable promotion'. 'In England', he said upon the 
hustings, 'one vote of the people's representatives turns out a 
ministry and a new one comes in. ... In this country, the govern- 
ment is like an ancient Egyptian mummy, wrapped up in narrowand 
antique prejudices dead and inanimate, but likely to last forever.' 1 

Howe's aggressive tactics were received on all sides with con- 
sternation. Four days after the opening of the session Alexander 
Stewart himself with polished sarcasm crossed swords with the 
young 'tribune', and became for many years the most implacable 
of his enemies. John Young 'Agricola' counselled peace, but 
Howe drew up twelve resolutions in amendment and plunged into 
the fray with an almost uncanny mastery of parliamentary tactics. 
The council's reply to the twelve resolutions promised a repeti- 
tion of the brandy dispute. Appealing to 'that decorum which 
regulates the intercourse of society' they ignored eleven of the 
resolutions, and under the thinly veiled threat of stopping the 
supplies demanded the rescinding of a phrase imputing to some 
of the councillors a disposition 'to protect their own interests and 
emoluments at the expense of the public'. 

1 Howe Papers, vi. 2. Chisholm, op. cit., i. 104. 


Howe's resourcefulness at this stage must have gone far to 
establish his reputation, for the opinion was now general in the 
lobbies that he had shot his bolt. After a long night's vigil he 
entered the House late in the debate with the elan of confidence 
in his manner. Rescinding not only one but all twelve of the 
resolutions in order to ' sacrifice neither the revenue nor the cause 
of reform', he followed up this demonstration of magnanimity by 
proposing an 'Address to the Crown on the State of the Colony*. 
What this cost in courage and in restraint was not apparent at the 
time, but four years later, at the time of his duel with Halliburton, 
he wrote to his sister that he * would rather stand a shot than go 
through the " rescinding of the Resolutions" V 

With the Address which Howe himself moved on April 13 the 
cause of reform passed beyond the grey walls of the old Province 
Building and entered a broader field. The reform press of Nova 
Scotia took it to every hamlet in the province. Its tone stirred the 
Colonial Office, as we shall sec, to the most ingenuous response of 
that decade. Howe's vision was already ranging over a 'broader 
view' the future of millions in every clime whose security and 
peace were to be 'sanctioned by the spirit and forms of the British 
Constitution'. In the midst of the debate came news of Lord John 
Russell's ten resolutions against responsible government in Lower 
Canada. If such, said Howe, were forever to be the views of the 
British Government, he would go to England to live, where none 
could deny his birthright. Against such tactics and temper the 
doctrines of Lord John Russell himself could not in the end pre- 
vail. Three years later the Nova Scotia Reformers found them- 
selves in command of the situation 'with the ball at their feet'. 


The Address of April, 1837, was a formidable indictment, and 
the astonishment of Murdock of the Colonial Office at its modera- 
tion is easily understood. 

In religion nine of the 'Council of Twelve' belonged to the 
Church of England which comprised one-fifth of the population 
of the province. Two family connexions included five members 
of the council, and no fewer than five were at one time partners in 

1 'There was more at stake than a limb, as far as I was concerned, more than 
a life as regards the Country, and I suffered a thousand times more.' Howe 
Papers, i. 14. 


the Halifax Banking Company. For thirty years all but one had 
been residents of Halifax. In effect they and not the Assembly 
wielded the power of the purse, since the salaries of the chief 
government officials were paid by permanent enactment or from 
the casual and territorial revenues of the crown over which the 
Assembly had no control, while the revenues appropriated by the 
Assembly went to roads, bridges, schools, and other public services. 
Stoppage of supplies was thus a deadly weapon in the hands of the 
council. In the hands of the Assembly it merely recoiled upon 
themselves. In the brandy dispute the council had used it because 
the Assembly had 'outraged the rules which regulate the inter- 
course of Gentlemen', and the threat to use it again was enough to 
force the rescinding of the twelve resolutions. The Chief Justice 
as president of the Legislative Council helped to make the laws, as 
an Executive Councillor he helped to administer them, and as 
Chief Justice he interpreted them. The Legislative and Executive 
Councils unlike those of New Brunswick, Upper Canada, and 
other provinces had the same personnel, and in both capacities 
excluded the public from their deliberations. The Address closed 
upon a note which dominated Nova Scotian politics until respons- 
ible government was won: 

'In England, the people by one vote of their representatives can 
change the ministry . . . here the ministry are your Majesty's Council, 
combining legislative, judicial, and executive powers; holding their 
seats for life, though nominally at the pleasure of the Crown. . . . 

We implore your Majesty to grant us an elective Legislative Council ; 
or to separate the Executive from the Legislative Council . . . and, by 
the introduction into the former of some members of the popular 
branch, and otherwise securing responsibility to the Commons, con- 
fer upon the people of this Province what they value above all other 
possessions, the blessings of the British Constitution.' l 

Glenelg's response confirmed that much-maligned statesman in 
the esteem of the Maritime Provinces. No name of that day in the 
Colonial Office not even the third Earl Grey's stands higher 
in their traditions. It was Howe's conviction that reform in Nova 
Scotia could have marched rapidly to its denouement had it not 
been complicated, and Glenelg himself overwhelmed, by the 
Canadian debdde. 2 During the spring of 1837 a delegation from 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 154 f. 

* Cf. the comment of 'J.S.' (James Stephen of the Colonial Office) in C.O. 
.277, 163. 135 ff . : 'not yet in a state for decision, nor even for discussion ... 


the New Brunswick Assembly Wilmot and Crane had arranged 
with Glenelg for the first time the amplest measure of reform 
hitherto conceded to a British province the control of the lands 
and territorial revenues of the crown in return for a fixed civil list. 
The Assembly had acted 'in the most liberal and handsome 
manner', and Glenelg 's response was acknowledged 'with hearts 
full of the warmest duty and gratitude'. Wilmot himself had moved 
for the 'full length portrait 1 of Glenelg which still adorns the 
Legislative Chamber of that province. The lieutenant-governor 
added his tribute to Glenelg's 'noble support' in changing the 
personnel of the Executive Council to command the 'entire confi- 
dence' of the Assembly the first specific practice of responsible 
government, though the Assembly itself disavowed the enforce- 
ment of Howe's principle 'at all times'. 1 Years afterwards in Nova 
Scotia Glenelg's 'candour and frankness and liberality' inspired 
one of Howe's noblest tributes : 

'A more accomplished scholar, a more accessible, amiable and or- 
dinarily industrious nobleman than Lord Glenelg never held the 
seals. His published despatches display vigour and clearness of 
design, goodness of heart and habitual suavity of temper. . . . Yet 
Lord Glenelg was driven into a sort of incomprehensible disgrace. 
No man gave the old system a fairer trial ; no man less deserved the 
fate to which it almost inevitably consigned its victims.' 2 

It was in June, 1838, that Howe called at the Colonial Office for 
the interview with that 'very affable . . . grey-haired and brail 
headed' Scotsman himself. Thus while Henry Chapman and the 
Lower Canadian reformers went to Roebuck whose 'talent and 
judgment' Howe profoundly distrusted, and while Baldwin and 
the Upper Canadian reformers went to Hume whose Ishmaelitish 
temper was perhaps the worst influence they could have enlisted 
in the British House of Commons, Howe and the Nova Scotia 
reformers dealt almost uninterruptedly with Glenelg, Normanby, 
Russell, and Grey, and confidentially with Charles Buller, perhaps 
the most gracious friend the British provinces ever had in Great 
Britain. Instead of a contest, as Hume and many of the Canadian 
'Ultras' sometimes represented it to be, between the colony and 

readiness of the Government to entertain and dispose of them whenever the 
occasion shall arise.' 

1 Journals y N.B., July 6-22, 1837, Appendix i. 

1 Second Letters to Lord John Russetl> in Chisholm, op. cit. t i. 612. 


the * baneful influence of the Mother Country', Howe never ceased 
to regard it as a contest between reform and vested interests on 
both sides of the Atlantic. It was this alliance, as we shall see, 
which finally prevailed in 1848. 


The popular criticism of Glenelg, one of the shrewdest of his 
colleagues notes in his diary, was undeserved. 'He was not lazy; 
he was too scrupulous and critical as to what he wrote/ 1 Glenelg's 
kindliness, his responsiveness, his scrupulous justice, appear at 
their best in the Nova Scotia dispatches of April 30 and July 6, 
1 837. 2 But hopes of reform came to grief upon two obstructions 
the powers of governor and council, and the Canadian debacle 
which now dominated colonial policy, drove Glenelg from office, 
and in the end brought the Nova Scotia reformers to desperation 
in the attempt to salvage their cause from 'the two maddest re- 
bellions on record*. 

Glenelg's instructions of April 30 were peremptory. The coun- 
cils were to be separated and reorganized 'in conformity with such 
advice as shall be deliberately tendered ... by the Representatives 
of the People of Nova Scotia'. This was 'no reluctant concession' : 
it was a 'peculiar pleasure 5 since the advice of the Assembly was 
'dictated by more exact and abundant knowledge of the Wants and 
wishes of their Constituents than any other persons possess or 
could venture to claim'. The crown lands and revenues had just 
been surrendered in New Brunswick for a fixed civil list. There 
was no reason why the same system 'should not be established in 
both provinces'. The alternative of an elective council, Glenelg 
assumed to have been 'thrown out by the Assembly rather as a 
possible compromise . . . than as expressing any fixed opinion '.3 
'Neither the Chief Justice nor any of his Colleagues should sit in 
the Executive Council.' The dispatch closes with a 'sense of the 

1 Lord Broughton, Recollections of a Long Life, London, 1911, v. 97: 'His 
cousin, my friend Dr. Chambers, told me that he would get up early on a winter 
morning, light his own fire, and sit down to write a despatch/ 

a Journals, 1838, Appendix No. 2; Brit. Parl Papers, Aug, 27, 1839 (579), 
pp. n, 27. 

3 'Rather with the view of the possible compromise', in Glenelg's original 
draft. C.O. 217, 169. 91. Howe's early partiality for an elective council may have 
been due to conditions peculiar at this time to Nova Scotia. The two councils 
were still united, and both functions could thus be brought under popular 


high claims which the Legislature of Nova Scotia have established 
... by a long and uninterrupted course of Loyal and zealous 
attachment to the British Crown'. 

But the governor and his council had yet to be heard from. 
Sir Colin Campbell in Nova Scotia was the last of Wellington's 
officers to 'govern' the North American provinces. Like Colborne 
and Maitland and Arthur, Sir Colin was a gallant old soldier, but 
it cannot be said that any of them contributed much but obstruc- 
tion to the solution of colonial government. In the end Sir Colin 
found himself in the toils of his advisers, to little purpose but their 
own. The Address of the Assembly had gone to Downing Street 
accompanied by thirty-four pages of Observations signed by every 
member of the council. Sir Colin's stubborn neglect of the in- 
structions of April 30 'in direct violation of their avowed princi- 
ples' stirred to exasperation the indulgent temper of Stephen him- 
self at the Colonial Office. The governor was directed to publish 
the dispatches a retribution * which Sir C. Campbell has brought 
upon himself'. 1 Nine of the Legislative Councillors were finally 
selected from the counties eight from religious denominations 
other than Anglican and their sessions thrown open to the pub- 
lic. Four members of the Executive Council Uniacke, Dodd, 
Huntington, and Dewolf were chosen from the Assembly and 
could answer there for government policy. 

This, however, was not responsible government. Huntington 
was at this time its only advocate in the Executive Council. The 
schedule of salaries for the proposed civil list, though drafted in 
Halifax, was to be presented to the Assembly as 'a specific propo- 
sition in detail . . . submitted from home\ with the ingenious 
suggestion from Sir Colin that he 'should be authorized to explain 
to the Assembly, that, this proposition having received the de- 
liberate consideration and approval of H.M. Government, no 
essential modification of its terms would be sanctioned'. In all 
this for many months it is easy to trace the Italian hand of Alexan- 
der Stewart. The schedule was finally received by the Assembly 
with 'execration'. 2 It was introduced by Uniacke and over- 
whelmingly defeated by an amendment moved by Huntington 
himself. When the dispatches were published it was found that 

1 Stephen's memo, upon Campbell's dispatch of August 26, 1837. C.O. 217, 
163- 845. 

2 Campbell to Glenelg, Aug. 26, 1837, Letter-Books (Halifax) 115. 57. For 
Stewart's influence see Memorandum in C.O. 217 ', 165. 693, &c. 


Glenelg at the outset had invited a deputation from the Assembly 
to discuss the civil list in London. 'Their Delegates', he wrote, 
'will be received with all ... respect and confidence.' 1 But the wily 
councillors had held other views. In the end the schedule was with- 
drawn, and it was left to the first responsible government in the 
province, ten years later, to arrange a fixed civil list in return for 
the surrender of the crown lands and revenues. 

More formidable than the council in Nova Scotia, however, was 
the reaction after the rebellions in Canada. From the time of the 
Ninety-two Resolutions colonial policy had been overshadowed by 
the uncompromising temper of Papineau . The minutes and memo- 
randa upon the Nova Scotia correspondence attest its effect upon 
the cause of reform in the other provinces. While troops with 
bayonets on their muskets were moving to and fro in Lower 
Canada, responsible government, Stephen noted at the Colonial 
Office, was 'not yet in a state for decision, nor even for discussion'. 
The motif far Nova Scotia is more ingenuously worded: 'if con- 
ceded in any one Colony it must be granted in all.' What advice, 
asked Lord John Russell pertinently, would be given to a governor 
by 'a ministry, headed by M. Papineau' ? The practice of Glenelg 
and much of the theory of Lord John Russell himself must have 
been dictated by that haunting spectre. 2 

From this debdcle the cause in Nova Scotia was salvaged chiefly 
by the unerring tactics of Howe. In May and July, 1835, Henry 
S. Chapman, then in London upon a confidential mission from the 
lower Canadian Assembly to Roebuck and the English radicals, 
had appealed to Howe for a simultaneous demonstration from all 
the colonies. 3 Howe's reply one of his 'flashes', as he used to call 
them, written in October when he was barely thirty-one years of 
age remained unknown for more than two years, but its publica- 
tion in The Novascotian (December 21, 1837) in the midst of the 
Papineau rebellion now arrested attention on both sides of the 
Atlantic. In the temper of the Lower Canadian Assembly Howe 

1 Glenelg to Campbell, Oct. 31, 1837. Id., 169. 211. 

2 C.O. 217, 163. 135; 169. 151. Egerton and Grant, p. 268. Glenelg com- 
mended the 'just delicacy* of Wilmot and Crane from the New Brunswick 
Assembly in waiving any 'peremptory rule' about the Executive Council in 
1836 (Journals, Dec. 20, 1836 Mar. i. 1837, Appendix, p. xvi). After Lord 
John Russell's resolutions for Lower Canada responsible government was 'inad- 
missible' for Nova Scotia also. The motif quoted above is in the original draft 

3 Howe Papers, i. i, 5. 


had surmised a determination 'at all hazards to precipitate a con- 
test with the mother country*. To this end the redress of griev- 
ances 'was to be sought in a spirit the most uncompromising and 
offensive'. To these tactics the people of the Maritime Provinces 
were by tradition and by conviction overwhelmingly opposed. On 
the other hand they saw hope and promise in a constructive 
alliance with those in Great Britain who were 'struggling against 
the same enemies'. If their British allies, having established popu- 
lar control for themselves then 'refuse to carry out in the colonies 
the principles they maintain at home', the British connexion might 
then be Viewed very differently'. Meanwhile uncompromising 
obstruction was unfair and ungenerous. The magnanimity and 
breadth of view in this, the first perhaps of Howe's political 
'flashes', cannot be conveyed by a paraphrase, but it was in the 
same spirit, as we shall see, that he and Charles Buller finally 
effected the historic alliance by which responsible government was 
effectually won. Both the tactics and the temper Howe made 
peculiarly his own. At their best they approach the insight and 
catholicity of Burke, and perhaps no reformer on either side of the 
Atlantic did more to sustain them at that level. 

It was in the midst of this depression, in the shadow of the 
Durham 'fiasco* (as it seemed at that time) and three months 
before the counterblast of the Report itself appeared in the pro- 
vinces, that the Nova Scotia Assembly determined to send Herbert 
Huntington and William Young to vindicate their cause at the 
Colonial Office. 


Herbert Huntington was the Robert Baldwin of Nova Scotia. 
Like How r e and Haliburton and a score of others in the public life 
of that province, Huntington came of New England stock, and he 
could trace his lineage to the Cromwells of the age of the Stuarts. 
Had he lived in those days, says Howe, like Oliver himself 'he 
would have drawn his sword against Charles as a necessity of his 
nature'. 1 His stalwart figure 'broad chest, a fine head, and an 
iron frame' his sagacity, his inflexible principles and integrity, 
were characteristic, as Bourinot says, 'of the Hampden school. . . . 
No man in the legislature evoked more interest or confidence.' 2 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 214 n. 

a Builders of Nova Scotia, Toronto, 1900, p. 68. 


'He never wasted a word/ adds Howe, 'but ran his thoughts, as 
men run bullets, into forms, compact, weighty and effective. . . . 
When out of health or out of humour, he was as moody and irascible 
as Oliver himself/ 

No happier alliance could have been devised than that between 
Huntington and Howe. It was Huntington who acted as Howe's 
second in the duel with Halliburton. His good offices were still 
more valuable in the field of politics. When he died in 1851 like 
Charles Buller in the hour of assured success his monument, a 
shaft of Shelburne granite, was raised in the Yarmouth churchyard 
by the Assembly which his inflexible spirit had inspired, and some- 
times daunted, for twenty years. It was the first monument to 
the public life of the province. If Huntington was the Baldwin of 
Nova Scotia, Howe was the Hincks and Uniacke the La Fontaine. 
But these fanciful parallels must await an ampler survey. 

In the reorganization forced by Glenelg Huntington had ac- 
cepted office in the Executive Council believing that the same 
principles as 'at Home when circumstances render a change of 
Ministers necessary there' were now to be conceded for Nova 
Scotia, and that 'a Majority of the Councillors at least, would be 
chosen from those who profess what are deemed liberal political 
Principles'. To his astonishment he found the Reformers still in 
a minority in both councils. At this stage it was found that Dur- 
ham's commission required an Executive Council of nine instead 
of twelve members. Huntington seized the opportunity of retiring 
from an impossible situation . When G lenelg confirmed the original 
appointments Huntington was again summoned to the council, 
but he refused to act without a radical change of policy and sent 
in his formal resignation. 1 From that time neither the wiles of 
Sydenham nor the entreaties of Howe himself could induce him 
to re-enter the Executive Council until responsible government 
was unequivocally conceded. Huntington 's uncompromising pre- 
cision, like Baldwin's, was perhaps open to the criticism that it 
impaired his political usefulness; but in the end, as we shall see, 
it was Huntington 's doctrine and not Sydenham 's that prevailed, 
and Howe himself was to become its prophet. 

The decision of February, 1839, to sen d Huntington and Young 
to the Colonial Office was reached at the lowest ebb of reaction 
after the Canadian rebellions. The Durham mission had ended, 

1 Huntington to George, Sept. 28, 1838, C.O. 217, 166. 423. 



it seemed, in a 'fiasco'. Four delegates from Nova Scotia J. B. 
Uniacke, George Young, J. W. Johnston, and Mather Almon 
had been appointed to meet Durham at Quebec, but they found 
him in the midst of the fatal quarrel with Melbourne and the 
British Whigs, and there is a tradition that at one stage he 'was 
overcome by his feelings, and had to retire for a little to a distant 
part of the room'. 1 Charles Buller distinguishes 'the Nova Scotia 
delegation in particular' as men 'not only of striking ability, but 
of a degree of general information and polish of manners which 
are even less commonly met with in colonial society'. But despite 
a very moderate paper by Howe, it seemed that the Reformers had 
shot their bolt. 2 The New Brunswick Assembly having reached 
their own immediate objective in 1837 hastened to 'repudiate the 
claim set up by another Colony' for responsible government 'at all 
times'. 3 Durham's Report had not yet appeared. Glenelg's resig- 
nation in February was ominous. In the Nova Scotia Assembly 
alone, it seemed, the Reformers still held an unbroken front. 

One dramatic incident at least another of Howe's 'flashes' in its 
origin but too spontaneous to have been premeditated supplied 
Huntington and Young with spectacular credentials to the Colonial 
Office. In February, 1839, the 'Aroostook War' over the Maine 
and New Brunswick boundary had reached the point where Ameri- 
can troops were being marched into the disputed territory. Amidst 
cheers that spread to the lobbies of the old Province Building and 
the streets of Halifax, the House voted 100,000 and called out 
the militia. 'Never have we witnessed such a heart-stirring scene,' 
wrote Howe in The Novascotian y 'nor ever before were such cheers 
heard in our House of Assembly.' 

Huntington and Young were heralded at Downing Street by 
a private letter from Sir Colin that their grievances were 'imaginary, 
except to a few Demagogues'. 4 The appropriation for the expenses 
of the delegates was thrown out by the council because no pro- 
vision was made for a similar delegation from the Upper House. 
In the end Huntington and Young sailed from Halifax at their own 
expense 'a forlorn hope', it seemed, in* a desperate cause. 

1 Campbell, History of Nova Scotia, p. 325. 

* Sketch of Lord Durham's Mission, Pub. Arch. Report, 1923, p. 358; id., 
p. 126. 

3 Journals, 1837, 475 ff. Cf. Stewart's Memorandum in G.O. 2/7, 165. 693: 
'Messrs. Crane and Wilmot, and indeed the whole House condemn the extreme 
opinions held by Mr. Howe and others in our Assembly.' 

4 G.O. 217, 170. 185. 



'he story of the Huntington- Young mission, were it possible 
race it here, would illustrate, as no other incident perhaps of 
time, the goodwill of the Colonial Office and at the same time 
power of the old order in Nova Scotia. Without apprising 
itington of his intentions, Sir Colin appointed 'two Gentlemen 
Delegates on the part of the Legislative Council'. 1 In sheer 
ity the governor's nominees had few equals in Nova Scotia, 
/is M . Wilkins , Sen . , for twenty-two years Judge of the Supreme 
irt, was 'a learned lawyer' with scholarly tastes and 'old 
ioned courtesy'. 2 Alexander Stewart was 'a practical man', as 
>nce said of himself, adroit, ruthless, and resourceful. 'Having 
n one of the Whigs of our little Society, and one of their 
ers in the House of Assembly', his was now perhaps the most 
lacable and pervasive of all the influences against them, 
formanby, who had succeeded Glenelg at the Colonial Office, 
>urect to reconcile the irreconcilable; advised the payment of 
expenses of both delegations from the casual and territorial 
jnues of the crown; maintained that 'the liberality and gallan- 
of the Assembly in the crisis over the Maine boundary would 
itle them to every consideration which it is in the power of the 
wn to bestow'; impressed upon the governor how 'desirable' 
ould be to have his Executive Council 'composed in a manner 
ommand the co-operation [the word in the original draft is 
[fidence'] of the Representative Branch'. Some of the caustic 
utes of Labouchere and Stephen of the Colonial Office are 
complimentary to the old order. The report of the delegates 
he Journals of 1840 is a remarkable record of insight and re- 
cefulness. Much more was achieved than appeared upon the 
ace practical reforms for the Post Office, bounties, a Land 
, and free ports 'as many as the Assembly desired'. With quiet 
and firmness they penetrated through the Colonial Office to 
Board of Trade, the Customs, and other departments of the 
^rnment. There is a word for 'the courteous attention' and 
iral views' of Labouchere and Baring 'this House may rely 
)oth, in any future emergency'. To Charles Buller there were 
3er obligations 'both for his personal recommendation which 

No hint of their appointment having been given by the Lieut. -Governor, 
gh His Excellency held a conversation with one of us on the day we left 
Fax.' Young and Huntington to Normanby, May 30, 1839, C.O. 217, 
7. a Bourinot, op. cit. y p. 69. 


smoothed our path, and for many valuable hints which were of 
essential service to us'. Both Huntington and Young returned with 
an abiding faith in the 'kindly and generous feeling' of the British 

Their main mission, however, was foredoomed to failure, for it 
was at the close of their stay that Lord John Russell succeeded to 
the Colonial Office and officially disavowed the doctrine of Dur- 
ham on responsible government. 1 Huntington and Young were 
present at Buller's trenchant speech on the Re-union Bill with its 
prophetic defence of Durham and its ringing challenge to the whole 
pontifical doctrine of Lord John Russell. 2 The delegates re- 
turned to Nova Scotia to find that Durham's Report had run like 
wildfire in The Novascotian to every village of the province. 'The 
remedy', exclaimed Howe, 'has two prime recommendations, 
being perfectly simple and eminently British.' The old system was 
'now become contemptible in the eyes of every man of common 
understanding, who has no interest in keeping it up'. 

The contest in Nova Scotia now passed quickly to its denoue- 
ment, and Howe's share in it was perhaps the most finished and 
dramatic passage of his political life. 



The period from the publication of Durham's Report in 1839 to 
the arrival of Sydenham at Halifax in July, 1840, has the intensity 
of a pitched battle. The moves follow each other with such speed 
and precision that the strategy is apt to be lost in the tactics. 
Before Sydenham intervened with the avowed object of forcing 
a drawn battle it seemed that the rout of the old regime, horse, 
foot, and artillery, was inevitable. It was not the fault of Herbert 
Huntington that the attack was not driven home without quarter. 
But the work of Joseph Howe during these brief months was to 
give him a place among the first figures of the British Common- 
wealth, and beneath the spell of Sydenham 's appeal Howe agreed 
to an armistice with the hope of strengthening Sydenham 's hands 
in Canada and of establishing 'a rationally responsible govern- 
ment by degrees'. The prospect of 1840, it may be, warranted 
that hope. But Huntington was a true prophet, and it was only 

1 Hansard, 3rd Series, xlvii. 1254. 

2 'Whatever decision he (Russell) might come to, he did not care a pin about 

it (a laugh) Responsible Government would inevitably be established by the 

people themselves.' 


after seven years of wandering in the wilderness that the Reformers 
entered the promised land. 

There were three preliminaries of the crisis of 1840 in Nova 
Scotia. In June, 1839, Lord John Russell announced his Canadian 
policy, and his declaration upon responsible government was a 
challenge alike to the Durhamites in Great Britain and to the 
* radical' reformers with whom Charles Buller was already in touch 
in Canada. Howe's four open Letters to Lord John Russell 
reverberated in reply throughout the reform press of Canada and 
the Maritime Provinces. The third preliminary was Lord John 
Russell's famous dispatch of October 16, 1839, making Executive 
Councillors removable from office, 'as often as any sufficient 
motives of public policy may suggest the expediency of that 
measure'. It was this dispatch, as we shall see, which turned the 
trench warfare between the Assembly and life-councillors into a 
war of movement ; for in giving the governor complete command of 
the executive it brought him into direct juxtaposition with those 
who claimed the responsibility of that executive to the Assembly. 
Thus for the first time those elemental forces were brought into 
play which Buller in Great Britain, Hincks in Canada, and Howe 
in one of his old * flashes' in Nova Scotia, all clearly foresaw would 
force responsible government in its final form. 

These three preliminaries all belong to a broader field than Nova 
Scotia, and though one of them was the work of a Nova Scotian it 
will be possible here to touch them only in outline. While it was felt 
that Lord John Russell's doctrine in 1839, an< ^ indeed his whole 
Canadian policy, was the result of an obsession with the impasse 
in Lower Canada 'the measures which a ministry, headed by 
M. Papineau would have imposed upon the Governor' 1 there 
was a note of finality in his speech, a cogency in his logic, which 
fell upon the Reformers in Nova Scotia like a bolt from Olympus. 
Re-affirming his own resolutions of 1837 against responsible 
government for Lower Canada, Russell joined issue with the most 
fundamental of Durham's principles : 

'There is nothing in this report which has at all, in my mind, shaken 
the argument by which at the time I supported that resolution (of 
1837). ... It is in my opinion one of the most important points con- 
tained in Lord Durham's report and one on which I differ with him/ 

A governor could not act 'in that high and unassailable posi- 
tion' which the sovereign occupied in Great Britain. 'He is a 

1 Russell to Thomson, Oct. 14, 1839, Egerton and Grant, p. 266. 


Governor receiving instructions from the Crown on the responsi- 
bility of a Secretary of State.* To Thomson in Canada the Russel- 
lite doctrine was expressed in one terse question : 'Can the colonial 
council be the advisers of the Crown of England? Evidently not, 
for the Crown has other advisers, for the same functions, and with 
superior authority.' 1 Self-government was impossible because 
imperial logic predicated governance from Downing Street . * Forced 
into a cleft stick/ said Howe, 'there was nothing left for us but to 
break it/ Thus while Huntington and Young were toiling with 
the Colonial Office, the Treasury, and the Board of Trade, through 
the summer of 1839, Howe in one of his daemonic 'flashes' of in- 
sight and of energy was straining at the cleft stick of Lord John 
Russell's Olympian logic. 

By common consent Howe's four open Letters to Lord John 
Russell have been accepted as the colonial counterpart of Durham's 
Report and Charles Buller's Responsible Government for Colonies. 
To be grouped with these is to be enshrined in the political litera- 
ture of the English language. Over both of these, however, the 
Letters had one great advantage. Howe's method was empirical, 
and he wrote with authority from the colonial point of view. In 
truth Lord John Russell's position was less vulnerable to frontal 
attack than to the sidelong approach of a nimbler adversary. The 
Letters were addressed to a British Minister, but the wealth of the 
imagery, the flexibility of the argument, and the vigour of the lan- 
guage all betrayed an appeal as wide as the political instincts of the 

In this there was more of deliberation than appeared upon the 
surface. At Howe's interview with Glenelg in June, 1838, that 
'brail headed . . . Scotchman' had invited frank advice upon the 
'state of feeling in the Colony'. In January, 1839, Howe had de- 
scribed to him 'the bitterness of wounded spirits' after a 'mortify- 
ing and useless Session' overshadowed by the Canadian imbroglio 
and Glenelg's own reactionary dispatch of October 3 1 : 

'There is nothing left to us now but to endeavour to interest as many 
Members of the Imperial Parliament, and as large a portion of the 
Press in our cause as possible. The People of Nova Scotia will never 
rest satisfied with things as they are/ 2 

1 The Morning Chronicle, quoted in Chisholm, op. cit., i. 218-21; Hansard, 
3rd Series, xlvii. 1287. October 14, 1839, Egerton and Grant, p. 267. 

* 'I feel that it is due to the kindness received from your Lordship, and to 
my country, to avail myself of the permission given to write thus frankly.' C.O. 
2x7, 169. 211 ; 171. 653. 


For such an appeal few men of that day or any other had a surer 
touch; and none a serener courage. There was a time ten years 
later, after a passage with Grey and Hawes in London, when Howe 
'tired and Savage' but undaunted by the 'enormous labour and 
fearful consequences' nerved himself to 'fight an Imperial 
Government and agitate England. It will come to that at last/ 
The famous Southampton speech was a part of that grim resolve. 
'My countrymen', he reflected, 'have never failed me' ; and he adds 
in his diary how he longed for the long rides 'through the quiet 
wood roads' of his native province that he might think his own 
thoughts and prepare for the battle. Such must have been his 
dedication in September, 1839, for the Letters to Lord John Russell \ 
and indeed the note of confidence in them is the note not of 
assurance but of assured mastery. 


No summary could do justice to Howe's theme, but two phases 
of it contributed more perhaps to the winning of responsible 
government in Nova Scotia than any others, and both of them 
Howe made peculiarly his own. 

The first of these was one of his 'flashes', and it was perhaps the 
first principle of his political life. Durham's Report with its sus- 
tained dignity was after all the work of a Briton reasoning from 
British analogies. The ego quoque Romanus of the Nova Scotian 
was charged with the political traditions of that province, and it 
enfiladed the lurking fear of separation which dominated the 
theory, if not the practice, of the Russell school: 

'I have ever held, my Lord, and still hold to the belief, that the popu- 
lation of British North America are sincerely attached to the parent 
State; that they are proud of their origin, deeply interested in the 
integrity of the empire and not anxious for the establishment of any 
other form of government here than that which you enjoy at home. 
. . . Why should we desire a severance of old ties that are more honour- 
able than any new ones we can form ? . . . This suspicion is a libel upon 
the colonist and upon the Constitution he claims as his inheritance. . . . 
The English rule is completely reversed on this side of the Atlantic. 
Admitting that in Lower Canada . . . such a policy may have been 
necessary ; surely there is no reason why the people of Upper Canada, 
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfound- 
land, should, on that account, be deprived of the application of a 
principle which is the corner-stone of the British Constitution. . . 


Where is the danger ? . . . What effect would it have upon the funds ? 
Would the stocks fall ? Would England be weaker, less prosperous 
or less respected, because the people of Nova Scotia were satisfied 
and happy? . . . 

Can an Englishman , an Irishman or a Scotchman, be made to believe, 
by passing a month upon the sea, that the most stirring periods of his 
history are but a cheat and a delusion . . . that the principles of civil 
liberty, which from childhood he has been taught to cherish and to 
protect by forms of stringent responsibility, must, with the new light 
breaking in upon him on this side of the Atlantic, be cast aside as an 
useless incumbrance? . . . My lord, my countrymen feel, as they have 
a right to feel . . . that there is nothing in their present or their past 
conduct to warrant such exclusion. . . . Have we done anything to 
justify the alienation of our birthright? . . . The proudest naval 
trophy of the last American war was brought by a Nova Scotian into 
the harbour of his native town; and the blood that flowed from 
Nelson's death wound in the cockpit of the Victory mingled with that 
of a Nova Scotian stripling beside him struck down in the same 
glorious fight. Am I not justified, my Lord, in claiming for my 
countrymen that constitution, which can be withheld from them by 
no plea but one unworthy of a British statesman the tyrant's plea of 
power ? I know that I am ; and I feel also, that this is not the race that 
can be hoodwinked with sophistry, or made to submit to injustice 
without complaint. All suspicion of disloyalty we cast aside, as the 
product of ignorance or cupidity; we seek for nothing more than 
British subjects are entitled to ; but we will be contented with nothing 
less/ i 

The logic of Lord John Russell's theory was less vulnerable, but 
here again Howe's reply was the logic of hard facts. The governor, 
said Russell, received 'instructions from the Crown on the re- 
sponsibility of a Secretary of State'. ' Colonial government' thus 
resolved itself into a bicephalous hobgoblin, one head of which 
was the Secretary of State who was to * decide', and the other the 
governor who was to govern. But whatever the logic of Russell's 
theory, there were two weak links in the practice. Hitherto the 
Secretary of State had not 'decided', and most certainly the 
governor had not governed. With thinly veiled impatience Howe 
overwhelmed these solemn fictions with merciless badinage as 
abstract 'nostrums by which the science of politics, like the science 

1 The Letters to Lord John Russell are in Chisholm, op. cit,, pp. 221-66; 
Egerton and Grant, pp. 191-252 ; Kennedy, Documents of the Canadian Constitu- 
tion (Oxford, 1918), pp. 480 ff. 


of medicine, is often disfigured for a time'. It was left to Charles 
Buller in his Responsible Government for Colonies in the following 
year, to trace the boasted 'responsibility of a Secretary of State' to 
its lair among the clerks in the attics of Downing Street. How 
could eight successive Colonial Secretaries in ten consecutive 
years * decide' for a dozen different governors of varying abilities, 
in a dozen different colonies, each with the widest range of local 
problems and conditions ? Mr. Mother Country resolved himself 
into the permanent clerks who knew the details of the business. 
Howe, too, has many a shrewd thrust for the complacency of an 
imder-secretary talking for an hour or two to the prospective 
governor of what neither he nor the governor understands, and 
placing in his hands a packet of instructions 'of which half-a- 
dozen different readings may be given'. 

But Howe's chief concern was the inflated impotence of the 
governor himself in the hands of his life-councillors. It would be 
little to the purpose to garble here the inimitable passages in 
which Howe imagines 'that after twenty or thirty years of military 
service, by which I have become disciplined into a contempt for 
civil business and a fractious impatience of the opinions of all 
beneath me in rank, Her Majesty has the right and graciously 
deigns to exercise it, of making me Mayor of Liverpool'. It was 
'no fancy sketch; no picture, highly coloured to produce effect . . . 
it is a faithful representation of what occurs in some British colony 
almost every year'. The result was easily foreseen: 

'He may flutter and struggle in the net, as some well-meaning 
Governors have done, but he must at last resign himself to his fate; 
and like a snared bird be content with the narrow limits assigned him 
by his keepers. I have known a Governor bullied, sneered at, and 
almost shut out of society, while his obstinate resistance to the system 
created a suspicion that he might not become its victim ; but I never 
knew one who, even with the best intentions . . . was able to contend, 
on anything like fair terms, with the small knot of functionaries who 
form the Councils, fill the offices, and wield the powers of the Govern- 
ment. The plain reason is, because, while the Governor is amenable 
to his Sovereign, and the members of the Assembly are controlled by 
their constituents, these men are not responsible at all. ... It is indis- 
pensable, then, to the dignity, the independence, the usefulness of the 
Governor himself, that he should have the power to shake off this 
thraldom . . . and by an appeal to the people, adjust the balance of 
power. Give us this truly British privilege, and colonial grievances 
will soon become a scarce article in the English market.' 

34" B b 


But it would be as idle to attempt here a summary of the Letters 
as to speculate upon their ultimate effect. Their immediate effect 
is more easily traced, and much of this, at least, was not unfore- 
seen. * There is not an over-paid and irresponsible official, from 
Fundy to theOttawa', wrote Howe, 'whose inextinguishable hostility 
I shall not have earned for the remainder of my life.' Sir Colin 
Campbell was instructed to offer seats in the Executive Council 
to 'some of the leading members of the House of Assembly'. He 
conceded that Howe was 'the head of the predominant party in 
the House'; but his appointment would be 'a most unwise and 
mischievous proceeding', for had he not 'published and extensively 
circulated, a series of letters, addressed to Your Lordship, advocat- 
ing what is popularly called "Responsible Government'' ; and this, 
notwithstanding the declared hostility of Your Lordship and Her 
Majesty's Government to any such fundamental and pernicious 
change'? 1 Lord John Russell himself was not magnanimous. 'I 
should recommend the offer of a seat in the Executive Council to 
Mr. Howe,' he wrote in a memorandum of November n, 'were it 
not that such an appointment at this moment might appear a 
sanction to the opinions of his recent publication.' 2 


Howe's Letters were dated September 18, 1839. On October 16, 
Lord John Russell's circular dispatch in its results one of the 
most important that ever left the Colonial Office, though not in 
the way its author anticipated supplied the third preliminary to 
a crisis in Nova Scotia. 

Early in September Lord John Russell had taken over the 
Colonial Office. By common consent no stronger intellect or 
character was to be found at that time in the Whig party. The 
other link of 'colonial government' the governor with his 'thral- 
dom' to his life-councillors was not so easily strengthened. Here, 
too, Russell's measures were heroic. In Lord Sydenham, as he will 
always be known in Canadian history, Russell sent as governor- 
general to British North America the ablest administrator who had 
ever left Britain on such a mission ; and the dispatch of October 
1 6 was designed to arm the colonial governor as never before to 
carry out his 'instructions from the Crown'. 

1 Campbell to Russell, Oct. 16, 1839, Letter-Books, Halifax, 115. 160. 
1 C.O. 217, 171. 433. 


The terms of the dispatch were simple and precise. Custom had 
converted a seat in the Executive Council from 'a tenure at plea- 
sure into a tenure for life' with results which we have already seen 
in Howe's Letters: 

'I cannot learn (wrote Lord John Russell) that during the present or 
the last two reigns, a single instance has occurred of a change in the 
subordinate colonial officers, except in cases of death or resignation, 
incapacity or misconduct. . . . 

You will understand, and will cause it to be made generally known, 
that hereafter the tenure of colonial offices held during Her Majesty's 
pleasure, will not be regarded as equivalent to a tenure during good 
behaviour; but that not only will such officers be called upon to 
retire from the public service as often as any sufficient motives of 
public policy may suggest the expediency of that measure, but that a 
change in the person of the governor will be considered as a sufficient 
reason.' I 

But while the terms of the dispatch were explicit enough, its 
purpose was not so clear, and few documents have ever been more 
curiously misconstrued. In its Canadian context it must be 
examined in greater detail, but it was not designed to expedite 
responsible government as Howe understood it. Its purpose, in 
Russell's own phrase, was 'freedom of action' for the executive 
government. 2 The colonial governor could now break the net in 
which he had been wont to * flutter and struggle' until he resigned 
himself to his keepers. He could now 'shake off this thraldom' to 
his life-councillors and resume the reins of government by com- 
manding at will the services of those whose good offices might 
prove from time to time most useful for that purpose. Sir Colin 
Campbell in writing to Russell himself interpreted the dispatch 
of October 16 as 'not intended to sanction any fundamental change 
of the Constitution, but merely to strengthen the hands of the 
Governor by enabling him more effectually to control refractory 
Public functionaries'; and Vernon Smith of the Colonial Office 
adds the convincing comment that Sir Colin was < right in his 
interpretation of Lord John's letter'. 3 The governor-general in 
Canada, as we shall see, expressed the same interpretation more 
discreetly, but Melbourne himself in the House of Lords was 
explicit. Government responsible to a colonial Assembly meant 

1 Egerton and Grant, pp. 270, 271. 

a Russell to Thomson, Sept. 7, 1839, Egerton and Grant, p. 256. 
3 Mar. i, 1840, Letter-Books, 115. 180; C.O. 277, 174, memorandum on 
Campbell's letter of Apr. 4, 1840. 


government irresponsible to the Colonial Office. Russell's dis- 
patch was intended ' directly to counteract the principle . . . and 
was properly understood by Sir Colin Campbell'. "The opinion 
of this country and this government was entirely opposed to 
independent responsible government.' 1 Thus governance was to 
flow uninterruptedly, on the * responsibility of a Secretary of State', 
through a governor who received 'instructions from the Crown'. 
The governor in turn could readjust the personnel of his Executive 
Council 'as often as any sufficient motives of public policy may 
suggest the expediency'. Under Lord John Russell' at least the 
'motives' were unimpeachable. 'The Queen's Government have 
no desire to thwart the representative assemblies of British North 
America. . . . They have no wish to make those provinces the re- 
source for patronage at home.' In the colonies as in Great Britain 
there was to be a field for 'talent and character'. 'Affectionate 
attachment' was the 'best security for permanent dominion'. 2 But 
for all that, 'colonial government' meant governance, not self- 
government ; and Lord John Russell's scheme of governance was 
to be as unimpeachable as his logic. 

But the dispatch of October 16, 1839, could be put to another 
use which was to play havoc in the end with Lord John Russell's 
whole pontifical theory. For the first time it enabled 'the pre- 
dominant party in the House' to determine, so simply and so 
conclusively that there could be no gainsaying the fact, whether 
the governor in the first instance, and in the last resort whether 
the British Government itself, was disposed to employ 'those who 
enjoy the confidence of the people and can command a majority in the 
popular branch*. 'The motives of public policy' might be Down- 
ing Street's, but the Executive Council was now the governor's, and 
he it was who must answer for its acceptability to the Assembly. 
This Howe in one of his old 'flashes' saw at a glance, and his 
political strategy until the recall of Sir Colin Campbell was perhaps 
the neatest and most brilliant constitutional procedure in that or 
any other province during the entire contest for responsible 


On February 3, 1840, Howe moved four resolutions in the 
Assembly culminating in the now classic formula that 'the Execu- 
tive Council, as at present constituted, does not enjoy the confi- 

T Hansard, 3rd Series, Iv. 657. 

' Russell to Thomson, Oct. 14, 1839, Egerton and Grant , pp. 268, 269. 


denceof the Commons'. Two incidents lent precision to the stroke. 
In New Brunswick where harmony, at this time unparalleled in 
the American provinces, existed between the Executive Council 
and the Assembly, Sir John Harvey had referred to the dispatch 
of October 16 as 'conferring a new, and in my judgement, an im- 
proved Constitution upon these Colonies'. The construction 
which the Reformers placed upon these phrases was scarcely borne 
out by the context of Harvey's Circular Memorandum, 1 but no 
more opportune time could have been chosen to 'test the matter'. 
The governor-general in Canada had just announced the Queen's 
commands to govern 'in accordance with the well-understood 
wishes and interests of the people'. 'The Governor of the Province ', 
exclaimed Howe, 'has the power to afford the remedy sought. It 
is only necessary for that Assembly to place its opinions on record, 
and the Governor will be bound to act on them.' The dispatch of 
October 16 had 'bestowed all that was required'. In a speech of 
great power and moderation Howe appealed to all parties to 'unite 
to give a constitution to our country. . . . The other colonies would 
follow her example'. 'Proud and happy that the commencement of 
these great changes should be laid here and that they should extend 
into all the British dependencies,' he foretold a 'form of govern- 
ment, which will, like the atmosphere, yield to every necessary 
pressure, preserve the balance of liberty, and yet expand with the 
growth of our posterity down to remote generations.' 2 The resolu- 
tions passed on February 5 by a vote of 30 to 12. 

Sir Colin was now between the upper and the nether millstone. 
In truth he had been placed there by Lord John Russell himself, 
and injustice let it be added that he was powerless to escape. What 
the dispatch of October 16 was intended to effect he was in a posi- 
tion to know better than the Assembly. He replied truthfully that 

1 Harvey to Russell, Dec. 24, 1839, N.B. Despatches Sent, C.O. 188, vol. vii. 
The dispatch of October 16, 'while enlarging the powers of the Administrator 
of the Government, by leaving him free to choose his Counsellors and Office- 
Bearers', was designed to 'impose upon him a corresponding degree of en- 
creased responsibility, as well towards the Queen's Government as towards the 
inhabitants of the Province . . . and above all, it has for its object to ensure for 
the Governor . . . the most cordial and sincere support, assistance, and co-opera- 
tion, in carrying out His views and policy and those of Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment, on the part of every individual Member of the Provincial Government, 
whose tenure of office is now made dependent upon Him. . . . They will at the 
same time fully recognise the condition which . . . dissent from the views of the 
Colonial Government . . . must necessarily involve.' 

* Chisholm, op. cit., i. 269-93. 


the decision of Her Majesty's ministers had been taken, and that 
he was not 'at liberty to adopt any other course. . . . Justice, how- 
ever, to the Executive Council (he added loyally) leads me to say 
that I have had every reason to be satisfied with the advice and 
assistance which they have at all times afforded me.' 1 The issue 
lay, in fact , not with Sir Colin Campbell but with Lord John Russell. 
He it was who had forced and afterwards approved without 
qualification the 'determination not to assent to the Address of 
the House of Assembly, for the change of the Members of the 
Executive Council of Nova Scotia collectively, without the pre- 
vious sanction of Her Majesty' ; 2 and his, as we shall see, was the 
sorry stratagem by which a well-nigh perfect demonstration of 
responsible government was finally frustrated. 

The next step the logical sequel of the first Howe once 

referred to as 'the severest trial of my life I felt pretty much as a 

soldier would who should be called out on a firing party. ... If ever 
I performed a task with a heavy heart it was that.' Nothing now 
remained but the recall of the governor. An Address was first voted 
to Sir Colin himself. Would 'those who still clung to power 1 per- 
mit the governor to be 'sacrificed to shelter them' ? But the gover- 
nor was still unable to establish so momentous a principle 'until 
Her Majesty's ministers shall have been consulted'. Upon the 
return of the Assembly to their chamber after this reply the 
Reformers took their last grim resolve for 'testing this Constitution'. 
Herbert Huntington, then as always perhaps the most resolute 
spirit in the House, gave notice of motion for an Address to the 
Crown for the governor's recall. 

The Address was introduced on March 25 by Howe himself, 
who afterwards acknowledged 'the composition of every line of it j . 
The terms were not only moderate but magnanimous; but the 
argument was incisive and indeed unanswerable. Upon the word 
of the Colonial Secretary there was 'no surer way of earning the 
approbation of The Queen, than \>y maintaining the harmony of the 
executive with the legislative authorities'. Beyond this wisest and 
most moderate of dispatches it was impossible to penetrate, 3 but 
either the governor had violated his instructions or he had been 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 294. 

1 Russell to Campbell, Apr. 30, 1840, C.O. 217, 174. 275. 

3 *I have thus cautioned you against any declaration from which dangerous 
consequences might hereafter flow.' Russell to Thomson, Oct. 14, 1839. 
Egerton and Grant, p. 269. This dispatch had just reached the Nova Scotia 


instructed to withhold responsible government. 'Five-and-twenty 
stern men . . . voted for the whole address' : 

' In no portion of your Majesty's dominions, are the powers of the 
Crown and the rights of the people better understood. . . . Availing 
themselves of the influence which their loyalty, their intelligence, 
their firmness and their moderation, have acquired for them among 
the population of British North America, they will never cease ... to 
vindicate and assert by every means in their power their rights as 
British subjects/ I 


There was some consternation in Downing Street when the dis- 
patches from Nova Scotia arrived in April, 1840. The memoranda, 
the minutes, the marginal notes, of 'Mr. Mother Country', must 
have inspired the wittiest of Buller's sallies had he known them. 

'Of the two steps taken by the Assembly (wrote Sydcnham from 
Canada) by far the most objectionable is the first: 

The demand for the removal of the Executive Council involves the 
establishment of this objectionable principle and I think could only 
be met when thus urged by a refusal. . . . 

I am not disposed to consider the Address of the I louse of Assembly 
for the removal of the Governor as a step so objectionable in theory 
as the other. . . . This course of an Appeal to the Throne ... is the 
legitimate mode for the Legislature when it is unsatisfied with the 
Executive Government.' 2 

It might have surprised Sydenham to know that his chief had 
already condemned the Address for the governor's recall as 'a 
very unusual, irregular, and inconvenient proceeding' which he 
declined peremptorily 'to submit to Her Majesty'. More surpris- 
ingly still he had written to Sydenham on the same day that 'the 
Queen has remarked with pain' the demand for Sir Colin's recalU 
To Sir Colin he wrote that the suspension of individual councillors 
was within the governor's powers. 'A total change in the composi- 
tion of that Body is a measure of a very different nature. ... I 

1 Chisholm, op. cit. y i. 307. 

2 'This circumstance however undoubtedly complicates the question. To 
change the Executive Council would be to give up the principle for which we 
contend with regard to Responsible Government while to remove the Governor 
might . . . afford a triumph to a little knot of persons who certainly ought not 
to receive one.' Thomson to Russell, 'Confidential', Montreal, May 27, 1840. 
G. Series, 387. 209. 

3 Russell to Campbell, April 30, 1840 (approved draft), C.O. 2/7, 174. 275; 
Russell to Thomson, April 30, 1840, G. Series , 443. 23. 


assume to Her Majesty 's Government the responsibility of deciding 
whether the demand for such a change is in itself reasonable, and 
in what terms it ought to be met.* T 

Here, then, was the very heart of the mystery, and the way in 
which Her Majesty's Government proceeded to meet 'the responsi- 
bility of deciding' must have appealed to Buller's sense of humour. 
Russell, Stephen, Vernon Smith, all conceded that Sir Colin 's 
dispatches were hopelessly prejudiced and unreliable. Upon that 
of March 28 Lord John Russell himself left a note which must 
have startled the old governor had he seen it, and perhaps Russell 
himself had he reflected upon it: 'There is something untold. . . . 
The L. Govr. appointed Liberal Members, but put them in a 
Minority They were out- voted in the Cabinet/ 2 The magic 
word was uttered! The Executive Council then was a 'Cabinet'. 
Huntington, representing a majority of 30 to 12 in the Assembly, 
had been outvoted n to i in the 'Cabinet'. 'Nothing can be done 
on this', notes Russell again, 'without much deliberation But 
I cannot approve of the Lieutenant Governor's reckoning two 
thirds of the Assembly as "a few factious demagogues" Let me 
have the despatches.' 3 Lord John Russell's reflections upon re- 
reading the dispatches can only be surmised, but it was obvious 
that 'a considerable change in the composition of the Executive 
Council is desirable'. It was equally clear that there was 'no 
ground whatever for believing that the Majority of the Assembly 
seek for any objects dangerous to the connection'. 4 But what was 
to be done with the governor? In the 'present circumstances of 
the Canadas' it was determined that Sir Colin must go. 5 To 
Sydenham, with his 'wand' and his 'star' and his magic touch, was 
to be entrusted the task of arranging the details upon the spot. 
Thus it was that Lord John Russell assumed the 'responsibility 
of deciding'; and the Ministers of the Crown, he added to Sir 
Colin Campbell, 'are relieved from the necessity of entering into 
many explanations'. 6 

' C.O. 217, 174. 275. * Id., 174. 309. 

3 Id., 174. 323- 4 Id., 174- 275- 

5 Note by Vernon Smith: 'Lord John Russell wished an official letter to be 
written to Sir Colin Campbell announcing Lord Falkland's appointment in the 
"present circumstances of the Canadas"/ 0.0.277,175.385. Before reaching 
Halifax Sydenham knew ('from your private letters') of Russell's plan for Camp- 
bell's recall. Thomson to Russell, July 27, 1840, G. Series, 184. Sydenham, 
in fact, had already suggested the same thing without compunction. Thomson 
to Russell, May 27, 1840, G. Series, 387. 209. 

6 C.O. Jj;, 174. 275- 


It is on record that at the first levee of Lord Falkland, Sir Colin's 
successor * within hearing of his Lordship and in the midst of 
a dozen of the Tories' gallant old Sir Colin parted with Howe 
'like a soldier and a gentleman'. 'You did what you thought was 
right', he said; 'you did it fairly and honorably, and I have no un- 
kind feeling towards you/ 1 What reflections must have attended 
that honest hand-shake with Joseph Howe? 

In Nova Scotia at least the contest was fairly won; and five 
months before Sydenham appeared there, like the god in the 
Greek play, to readjust the balance of victory, perhaps the greatest 
personal trophy of the contest had fallen to the Reformers. At the 
vote of want of confidence on February 5 the Hon. J. B. Uniacke, 
member of the Executive Council and long its chief defender in 
the Assembly, sent his resignation to the governor and joined 
the forces of reform. 

James Boyle Uniacke 's final stand was scarcely less dramatic 
than La Fontaine's in Canada. Both reached their final convictions 
during the same critical months of 1 839-40. z Both became 
premiers the first two premiers overseas under responsible 
government. Uniacke was the fourth son of R. J. Uniacke, the 
old 'Cumberland rebel' during the American Revolution, whose 
services as Assemblyman, Speaker, Attorney-General, and Execu- 
tive Councillor filled the remarkable span of forty-eight years. At 
76 years of age he could boast six sons who held his 'Character 
as the most valuable part of their inheritance'. 3 The eldest be- 
came Attorney-General and judge in Lower Canada; another 
became judge of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Perhaps no 
family in Halifax inherited a more pervasive influence in the inner 
circles of government. 

Uniacke 's defence of the old order was instinctive, and much of 
his early repugnance to the new would not be difficult to justify. 
In truth there was a strain in Howe's manner to which Uniacke's 
polished and courtly address was a complete contrast ; though there 
is perhaps no higher tribute than Howe's to Uniacke's 'noble 
form, easy deportment, graceful manners ... a mind ever fruit- 

1 'I am not without my own suspicions, however, that before he left Sir Colin 
had come slowly to the conviction that they had sacrificed him.' Howe to 
Sydenham, n.d., Howe Papers, vol. x. 

* See below, pp. 256-62. 

3 Uniacke to Halliburton, Oct. 19, 1829 (C.O. 217, vol. 149). A. Series, 170. 

34" C C 


ful, a tongue ever eloquent, humour inexhaustible'. Uniacke 
resigned amidst the execrations of his set the first formal demon- 
stration of the principles of cabinet responsibility in Nova Scotia, 
'From that hour', exclaimed Howe all too confidently in the 
Assembly, 'they might date ... a constitution of which no power 
on earth could now deprive them.' 1 



For Sydenham as for Lord John Russell Howe's coup in Nova 
Scotia forced the first clear practical issue of responsible govern- 
ment in its final form. 

Sydenham came to Nova Scotia after nine months of such suc- 
cess in the Canadas that his adroitness there passed into a proverb. 
The magic of his 'wand' must be examined in another context. 2 
No more resourceful administrator perhaps ever came to Canada, 
but diffidence was not his besetting sin. A memorandum by Mur- 
dock, his indefatigable secretary, reflects inimitably, as we have 
seen, the sub-conscious mind of the Colonial Office upon the 
affairs of Nova Scotia. With this and the dispatches before him 
Sydenham wrote from Montreal on May 27 two months before 
his visit to Nova Scotia with characteristic certitude : 

'It is apparent to me that the present state of affairs there arises 
from no real grievance, but is the result of petty and personal am- 
bition on the one hand and of a not over prudent management of 
affairs on the other. There exists ... no impatience of British 
Sovereignty, no complaint of mismanagement at home, no financial 
distress. . . . Yet the Assembly by a large Majority have voted want 
of confidence in the Executive and have ultimately prayed for the 
removal of the Governor. 

I canattribute this state of things only to the cause 1 have mentioned.' 

After nearly three weeks at Halifax Sydenham still professed the 
same opinion: the causes of dissension were 'those which I antici- 
pated in my despatch ... of the zyth May'. 

But this infallibility was belied not only by the facts, but by the 
rest of his own dispatches. The case against the Executive Coun- 
cil was 'a just one' ; and in Sydenham 's deductions from this central 
truth are to be found all the fatuities which were soon to test, to 
the limits of his resourcefulness, his loyalty to the dominant creed 
of his chief in withstanding responsible government in its final 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 300, 295. 2 See below, Chapter v, pp. 249 ff. 


form. 'The removal of the Executive Council' , as he wrote truly, 
meant 'the establishment of this objectionable principle/ The 
reason it was 'objectionable' and 'preposterous' was because 'no 
acts were assigned . . . as grounds': as though there could have 
been a clearer issue than responsible government itself and the 
civil list. The second, indeed, was carefully withdrawn from dis- 
cussion by Sydenham himself. But what was to be done with 
Russell's dilemma? 'To change the Executive Council would be 
to give up the principle for which we contend with regard to 
Responsible Government while to remove the Governor might . . . 
afford a triumph to a little knot of persons who certainly ought not 
to receive one/ l 

In truth the 'cleft stick' was now in the hands of the Reformers ; 
and brilliant as may have been Sydenham 's exploits in Canada his 
success in staving off 'this objectionable principle' in Nova Scotia 
may be regarded as the supreme test of his amazing tact and 


Sydenham reached Halifax on July 9. It is not easy to trace the 
details of that memorable fortnight. The private letters between 
Sydenham and Russell are only partially in evidence, and revela- 
tions like the Bagot Papers or the Grey-Elgin Correspondence are 
seldom forthcoming. Sydenham 's 'official' diagnosis, on the' other 
hand, will be familiar to students of his political clinics in Upper 
and Lower Canada. There had been no personal quarrel, he 
wrote, with Sir Colin Campbell. 'The vote of the Assembly 
which affected him personally, was / am afraid, arrived at with the 
utmost reluctance and pain by most of those who concurred in it.' 2 
The 'strong measures' of the Assembly, however, ought never to 
have been 'allowed to reach their present height'. Thus the disease 
was exceptional, and its malignancy was the fault of the physician. 
The hope of the future lay in hygiene rather than in surgery. In 
that sense Sir Colin 's government was 'almost ridiculously power- 
less'. There was a 'total want of energy to attempt to occupy the 
attention of the Country upon real improvements'. The very con- 
sideration of these 'would divert men's minds from the agitation 
of abstract points of government'. Executive Councillors ought, 
therefore, to be in the Legislature in order to be 'instruments within 

1 Thomson to Russell, May 27, July 27, 1840. G. Series, 387. 209; 184. 

2 Ibid. The words in italics (my own) are suggestive. Had Howe's tactics 
been less magnanimous Sydenham 's task had been easier. 


its walls* for the governor's measures, 'or to defend his Acts or 
his policy'. 'If the proper direction be given to their labours, and 
due firmness evinced in controlling them, the Council will prove 
a very useful and powerful engine in the hands of the Governor/ 
In effect, as we shall see, the governor was to govern, and the Exe- 
cutive Councillors were to be the governor's 'placemen' Syden- 
ham's own phrase diverting men's minds from awkward ab- 
stractions 'such as we have seen raised here'. In the Assembly as 
in the nursery, it would seem, 

Satan finds some mischief still 
For idle hands to do. 

The necessary diligence could be exacted 'by no one but the 
Governor himself. Me is in fact the minister. . . . There is I feel 
satisfied so much good sense amongst the People so much re- 
spect and reverence for the Royal Authority, and so strong a desire 
for improvement, that he may Govern with ease to himself, and 
contentment to the people'. 1 Such was the Russellite creed in the 
hands of the shrewdest and ablest governor who ever tried to put 
it into practice. 

In Nova Scotia as in Canada, however, Sydenham's real magic 
was always exercised in camera. 'I saw and conversed', he writes 
significantly, 'with men of all parties'; and there are few more 
engaging passages in Howe's life than the confidential interview 
in which he read to Sydenham the Letters to Lord John Russell \ 
answering, as he thought, Sydenham's objections, and falling 
insensibly, it may be, beneath the spell of that remarkable 
personality. There is evidence, too, that the spell was reciprocal. 
But there were awkward possibilities in the Russellite creed which 
the subtlest charmer could scarcely dispel, charm he never so 
wisely. Hincks, who was a shrewder man than Howe, and as 
unscrupulous on occasion as Sydenham himself, had already seen 
this in Upper Canada. c Privately His Excellency makes the most 
liberal promises', he wrote confidentially to La Fontaine. ' We think 
it policy to assume that Mr. T. is sincere.' 2 In the end Hincks too, 

1 G. Series, 387. 209 ; 184 ; Scrope, Memoir of the Right Honourable Charles 
Lord Sydenham with a Narrative of his Administration in Canada, London, 1843, 
pp. 183-5. 

1 Dec. 4, 1839; Aug. 15, 1840. La Fontaine Papers, i. 31, 74, 'In Nova 
Scotia there is a Reform majority and yet notwithstanding Lord John Russell's 
celebrated despatch there has been no change.' 'We are all of opinion that Mr. 

Thomson has broken faith with us, and shamefully deceived the Reform party 

But the Reformers generally thought me too violent & too suspicious/ Hincks 
to La Fontaine, Jan. 30, May 2, 1840. Id., i. 51, 59. 


as we shall see, surrendered to the charmer. But Howe's faith was 
more ingenuous; though he, too, sometimes subdued his mis- 
givings with a conscious effort. 1 In truth there are discrepancies 
which cannot be reconciled. 

In 'confidential* and private letters to Russell Sydenham's ad- 
herence to the creed of his chief seems thoroughly orthodox. 'It 
has been my object', he wrote, 'carefully to avoid giving a triumph 
to the party which expressed want of confidence.' He had 'read 
people, parties, Assembly and all, a good lecture' in his reply to an 
Address from Halifax, and had taken that opportunity 'to place 
a decided negative upon the demand for what is called "Responsi- 
ble Government" in the sense in which it is supposed to be used 
by the Popular party'. To confirm this report Sydenham enclosed 
a copy of The Novascotian with an article by Howe himself which 
would 'do away altogether with any difficulty on the score of his 

But Sydenham's superlatives are not always warranted by the 
evidence. The article in The Novascotian (July 23) will be searched 
in vain for any recantation, on Howe's part, of responsible govern- 
ment. Howe's version of that memorable fortnight is vastly 
different: 'Before Mr. Thomson left Nova Scotia it was apparent 
that the old system was doomed and that Sir Colin would be 
removed. Expressions in his reply to an address from the, people 
of Halifax were caught at as negativing this presumption, but those 
who had an opportunity of discussing politics with him could not 
be mistaken in the bias of his mind.' 3 Howe's private correspon- 
dence with Sydenham himself is more conclusive. Within three 
weeks he was writing warningly of the attempt of his enemies 'to 
make the whole affair bear the same appearance of trick and hum- 
bug as did the former Council' ; though he himself was still hope- 
ful of 'a strong but rationally responsible Executive', and ready 'to 
labour in all sincerity and good faith ... to bring out the new 
policy discreetly'. 4 To Falkland Howe once wrote of a pledge to 
serve in the Executive Council for two years 'without fee or 
reward'. 15 Here, then, was Sydenham's pacification for 'a mighty 
storm in a very small ocean' a curious response from the man 

1 Cf. Howe to Thomson, Howe Papers, vi. 22; x. 8. 

1 Thomson to Russell, July 27, 1840. G. Series, 184; Scrope, op. cit., p. 185. 

3 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 328. Annand's original edition was revised by Howe 
himself and was practically 'the work of his own hand'. Id. y i. vi. 

4 Howe to Thomson, Aug. 12, 1840. Howe Papers^ vi. 22. 

5 Id. t x. 12. 


whom Sydenham still represented to Russell as actuated by 'petty 
and personal ambition'. Elsewhere Howe stated to Falkland his 
concordat with Sydenham in precise and indeed unequivocal 
language. 'A Cabinet, composed of Heads of Departments, acting 
in harmony and possessing public confidence, was the ultimate 
object in view, as distinctly stated by His Lordship': 

'When I consented to go into the Council, it was upon the distinct 
understanding with Lord Sydenham, that thereafter the House of 
Assembly was to possess and freely exercise its right, by a. vote of 
want of Confidence or stoppage of supplies, to change the policy or 
dismiss the advisers of the Governor, subject of course to the re- 
straints of the prerogative. . . . Relying upon this power in the popular 
Branch to produce ultimate harmony with the Executive, if the new 
arrangements were not satisfactory, I consented to go in.* 1 

The 'new arrangements' were that Howe and two of his friends 
including Herbert Huntington were to be invited to enter the 
Executive Council in a coalition under a successor to Sir Colin 


The Howe-Johnston-Stewart coalition in Nova Scotia was 
followed by a similar ' hermaphrodite administration', the Draper- 
Harrison-Hincks coalition in Canada after the Union Sydenham 's 
favourite expedient in both cases for making the Executive Council 
a * useful and powerful engine in the hands of the Governor'. 
With Lord John Russell himself at the Colonial Office and Syden- 
ham 's mercurial genius thus successful in Canada, the two weak 
links exposed by Howe and Buller in the Russell theory seemed 
at last equal to the strain. 

But there was already in Nova Scotia, and soon to be in Canada, 
a political dynamic strong enough to snap them both, 'We owe to 
party (writes Erskine May) most of our rights and liberties. . . . 
By argument and discussion truth is discovered, public opinion is 
expressed and a free people are trained to self-government.' From 
the Grand Remonstrance to the Reform Bill almost every great 
reform in British history had been the work of a political party. 
On neither side of the Atlantic was strong public opinion likely to 
function long without political parties, or a dominant party 
without power. It was the spectre of this historic tendency in 
British politics which haunted the Colonial Office and the death- 

1 Howe Papers, vi. 39, Apr. 3, 1843. 


chamber, as we shall see, of Sydenham himself. What if discern- 
ing and disciplined political parties were to arise in these colonial 
parliaments as in Britain itself not the Voice of faction' but a 
'body of men (in Burke 's own phrase) united for promoting by 
their joint endeavours the national interest upon some particular 
principle in which they are all agreed' ? 

How Russell and Sydenham and Stanley and Gladstone and 
Metcalfe and Falkland, familiar as all of them must have been with 
the vital functions of party in British politics, could all have con- 
ceived it possible to blink the same tendencies in the colonies, 
must remain one of the mysteries of the Russell regime. Charles 
Duller, who had no small share in promoting such parties in both 
Nova Scotia and Upper Canada, gauged unerringly their functions 
and looked to them to vindicate the memory and principles of his 
chief. At the death of Durham, a broken and ruined man, in July, 
1840, Buller consoled his daughter with this prophetic reflection. 
'It does not matter very much', he wrote a few weeks later, 'what 
the Government repudiates and what it recognizes, for certain it 
is that in the Parliament of United Canada it has created a power 
from which no Government in this country will be able to with- 
hold' the control of the executive. 1 The desperate shifts of 
Colonial Secretaries and governors to lay this ghost, to thwart the 
functions of party, to short-circuit them if possible by spacious 
coalitions 'including all parties', and failing this to disparage their 
public spirit, now become for seven years the commonplaces of 
official correspondence. Sydenham 's public censure of Baldwin 
in 1841 was more scathing, as we shall see, than his private libel 
upon Howe in 1840. In Canada the turmoil after the Union might 
put off the evil day, and this beyond a doubt was no small incentive 
to that measure. 2 But for better or for worse a sound political party 
after Burke's own heart was already in existence in Nova Scotia, 
and to say that the issues there were 'of no great magnitude' was 
merely to say that the province was of no great magnitude. 

Now no man in British America had done more to create a 
sound political party than Howe. Upon the eve of 'the great 

1 Aug. i, 1840. Durham Papers, xxvi. 501. Sketch of Lord Durham's Mission, 
Report of Pub. Arch. Can., 1923, p. 366. 

2 'The whole system . . . must then be broken up and remodelled ; and if for 
no other purpose than that the Union would be most desirable. ... I am satis- 
fied that if we fail in carrying it we may as well give up the Canadas at once, 
for I know no other means of governing either.' Thomson to Melbourne, 
Dec. 12, 1839. Lord Melbourne's Papers, ed. Sanders, Lond., 1889, p. 446. 


election' of 1847 Howe left on record the aims that had dominated 
his political life: 'a healthy tone of public feeling, based on sound 
political knowledge, pervading not a class or a coterie, but the 
great body of the people; and an organized party in the Lower 
House, acting on general principles which the constituencies 
understood and feeling in honour bound to advance those princi- 
ples until they should prevail.' 1 'A more manly, public-spirited, 
united, and disinterested body of men', he was wont to say, 'were 
never exhibited by the legislative conflicts of any country.' With 
a resolute and disciplined majority of two to one in the Assembly 
it seemed that nothing could now stop the enforcement of responsi- 
ble government in its final form. 

Howe's failure to lead the party resolutely forward in 1840 
carried consternation to many of his followers. His enemies said 
at once that he had sold his principles for office. His closest friends 
warned him of the ' curious cutting and carving' of his * mangled 
reputation' by the rank and file of his own party." In truth his 
decision looked like surrender. At best it was an ineffectual 
armistice when the state of the field, had he permitted his followers 
to stand to their guns, seemed to warrant an ultimatum. Scarcely 
three months had passed since Huntington had stood as his 
second in the duel with Halliburton ; now, at the height of their 
intimacy, he withdrew his confidence, thrice declined Howe's 
adroitest inducements to take office, and held inflexibly to 'the 
good old cause'. So strained became the relations between them 
that common friends feared for their friendship, 3 and it was never 
perhaps quite unreservedly renewed. Howe, too, saw the dangers. 
'Fully alive to the personal risk', he decided nevertheless to 'run 
all hazards'. 4 His reputation underwent its first eclipse, and 
nothing but the sheer strength of his influence enabled Sydcnham, 
for the time at least, to carry the day. Where office itself was 
* without fee or reward', and the price at once so obvious and so 
exacting, the urgency must indeed >have been great. How was it 
to be explained ? 

There is much to be said for Howe's instinctive moderation. 
To Isaac Buchanan who tried to persuade him to enter the larger 
field by moving to Montreal Howe once wrote that he 'would not 

1 Letter to the Freeholders of Nova Scotia, Chisholm, op. cit., i. 646. 

2 A. F. Ross to Howe, Pictou, Feb. 23, 1841. Howe Papers, i. 37. 

3 Cf. Stayley Brown to Howe, Yarmouth, Mar. 12, 1842. Id>, i. 69. 

4 Howe to Thomson, n.d. ; to Huntington, n.d. Id. y x. 8, 39. 


be sufficiently ultra' for Canadian politics. 1 Like Sydenham Howe 
distrusted stark theories and relied with great confidence upon the 
subtler accommodations of practice and experience. Responsible 
Government', he once wrote to one of his admirers in Upper 
Canada, 4s easily understood to my mind it is a very simple 
affair as simple as matrimony, but those husbands and wives get 
on the best, who respect each others' rights and say as little as 
possible about them.' 'It has always been my wish', he avowed to 
Falkland in 1843, 'that the new principles should be brought into 
operation without displacing or injuring a single person drawing 
his living from the public funds.' His magnanimity in the hour 
of success, in 1848, as we shall see, was in keeping with this 
generous impulse. But this alone would scarcely account for the 
armistice of 1840. 

What then was the magic of Sydenham 's 'wand', the burden of 
his appeal? It was Howe's belief that an obstructive and uncom- 
promising temper in the Canadas had been responsible for the 
volte face of Glenelg in Nova Scotia, for his 'incomprehensible dis- 
grace' in Great Britain, and for the counteracting firmness of Lord 
John Russell. The letter to Chapman and the columns of The 
Novascotian abound with these convictions. They had resulted 
in his earliest disagreement with Jotham Blanchard, and they 
coloured the whole temper of his mind towards Confederation. 
In 'the present circumstances of the Canadas' what would be the 
result of driving responsible government home without quarter, 
as Huntington stoutly advocated, in Nova Scotia? 

To Falkland Howe once stated categorically his reasons for 
entering the coalition of 1840: 'being sincerely desirous to aid the 
introduction of the new system, and to lessen, if possible, the 
difficulties with which, at that time, the Governor General was 
beset/ 2 'Your Lordship has a difficult task before you in Canada', 
Howe wrote to Sydenham himself. 'We will do our duty to you/ 3 
To his followers in 1840 Howe appealed openly to support 
Sydenham in his great task, 'throwing the influence of Nova Scotia 
into the scale of Canadian politics, strengthening his hands, and 
giving the principles we value a wide circulation'. 'My pride and 
hope (he added) is that we shall make Nova Scotia, by her loyalty, 
intelligence and spirit, as it were, a normal school for British North 
America/ 4 Few more generous estimates of Sydenham's work are 

1 Aug. 31, 1844. Id** y i- I 2 " 2 Apr. 3, 1843. Id., vol. vi. 3 Id., x. 8. 
4 Chisholm, op. cit. t i. 337. 

34" D d 


to be found than Howe's in The Novascotian a few days before the 
news of his death at Alwington House: Howe had done his 'best 
to strengthen his hands' against the recurrence of that * obstructive 
policy which had ended in open insurrection and the establishment 
of arbitrary power'. How far from just this was to Baldwin's in- 
flexible principle', or to La Fontaine's austere ' Constance', we 
must examine elsewhere ; but in subordinating local tactics to the 
broader strategy Howe may perhaps be credited with more gene- 
rosity than many of his critics then and since. In Canada in 1840 
the Union itself was pending, and the approaching elections, as 
Sydenham well knew, were big with unknown possibilities. What 
if Howe were to lead an attack 'without quarter' in Nova Scotia? 
On the other hand, had the Whigs remained in power and had 
Grey instead of Stanley succeeded to the Colonial Office in 1841, 
it is conceivable that 'responsible government by degrees' might 
indeed have come in Nova Scotia like the dawn without those 
convulsions which afterwards distorted the contest in both 

As it proved, Huntington's misgivings were amply justified ; and 
indeed with six Tories and the implacable influence of Alexander 
Stewart in the cabinet three Reformers were not likely to leaven the 
lump. Uniacke, still a Tory on many issues, and James McNab, 
a relative by marriage of Howe himself, were induced to take office ; 
but no inducement could prevail upon Huntington. The Nova- 
scotian, the Recorder, the Register, the Times, the Yarmouth Herald, 
and two of the three Pictou newspapers, gave the coalition their 
nominal support. To Huntington himself Howe wrote in praise of 
Falkland. The excluded members of the council 'died hard, but 
were in firm hands'. But Howe had given hostages, as every leader 
in a minority in a coalition must give hostages, to the enemy; and 
like Brown after Confederation, he lived, not to repent the deed 
but to pay bitterly for his magnanimity. 


The coalition of 1840 did not succeed, but the marvel was that 
it worked at all. Even in Canada where the Union tended to 
neutralize or confound the functions of the old parties Bagot was 
soon in the rapids, bending his 'back to the oar like a man', as 
Stanley had exhorted him, but utterly unable to stem the current. 
The second coalition of September, 1842, virtually forced the 
Tories from the council. In Nova Scotia the current was already 


faster, and there was still less discipline in the boat much more 
of * culling crabs, or backing water when they are wanted for "Hard 
all".' 1 If the cox, as late as 1843, could still report headway, it 
was because Howe in all his life had never rowed in better form. 

In a sense the Sydenham regime had scarcely a fair chance. 
Until Sydenham 's death and the fall of the Whigs from power in 
Great Britain both in September, 1841 Howe's faith remained. 
The elections of 1840 had given the coalition a fluctuating majority. 
Huntington carried a vote against the government to reopen the 
civil list controversy but failed twice to carry want of confidence. 
Howe went to Canada for the opening of the first session after the 
Union, and returned with his misgivings of Canadian politics still 
unallayed even by Sydenham's amazing skill and resourcefulness. 
His own position, too, was anomalous. His role as Executive 
Councillor 'without fee or reward' was to be Speaker of the 
Assembly a combination which sufficiently indicates what was 
expected of him. Not even S. W. G. Archibald at his best poured 
oil more sedulously upon the troubled waters. More than once he 
left the Speaker's chair to quell the storm by one of his Olympian 
speeches. The Novascotian, deprived of his versatile pen, quickly 
lost its hold upon the public except when Howe's unmistakable 
elan reappeared at intervals in a series of articles under a nom de 
plume. With his lips sealed by the confidences of the council 
chamber, his voice hushed in the Speaker's chair, his pen dry, his 
friends loyal but unconvinced, and the 'obstructive Press' doing 
its worst to goad him into speechless fury, Howe ruefully conceded 
that he had 'his hands full'. 

The hope of 'the new system', however, lay with the new gover- 
nor. With Lord Falkland Howe's relations at first were cordial to 
the point of intimacy. As Whig whip in the House of Lords during 
the 'thirties, Falkland must have got his knowledge of the game 
at first hand. Gifted with a famous name and handsome presence, 
married to a king's daughter, and liberal beyond Sydenham him- 
self in his interpretation of 'the new system', he might have left 
a different reputation in Nova Scotia had his governorship con- 
tinued under the auspices of 1840. Responding to such an intim- 
acy Howe dedicated his abounding energies to the task of making 
Falkland's administration 'a bright page in the history of the 
Country'. 'Now is the winter of our discontent (he once quoted in a 
burst of enthusiasm) made glorious summer by the sun of Falkland.' 
1 Stanley to Bagot, May 17, 1842, Bagot Papers, ix. 60. 


At the death of his brother 'the hardest blow (he wrote) I have 
ever had* Howe was deeply touched by the governor's sympathy. 1 
'Your Lordship', he once added, 'has often in the frankness of 
personal intercourse tempted me to wish that the difference of 
rank which divides us were less.' With regard to policy Howe 
found Falkland's 'reliance upon the infinite superiority of the new 
system over the old almost as great and enthusiastic as our own'. 
Falkland once criticized to Lord John Russell himself the 
failure of coalitions to produce 'a regular steady Majority' in the 
Assembly. 2 When the Bankrupt Bill, a government measure, was 
lost, Howe outlined in strictest confidence a 'sketch of a party 
Administration', in order to 'protect your Lordship, our principles 
and myself.' 3 Falkland himself canvassed the retirement of Sir 
Rupert George from the Secretaryship; and Howe, whose name 
had been proposed for the Excise or the Post Office, did not hesi- 
tate, in one of the most intimate 'private and confidential' letters 
he ever wrote, to forecast the post which he finally occupied under 
responsible government in 1848: 

'It is evident that the party through whose hands every detail of 
administration passes, is the best fitted to give views of the general 
"policy", and ready answers and explanations whenever they are re- 
quired. With the knowledge I have of the temper of the House, and 
the friends I have there, and the facility which long practice has given 
me in speaking and writing I have the confidence to believe that if 
representing the Government there in that capacity I could do more 
good than in any other. . . . Every storm that rises satisfies me that 
some of our friends want more of nerve, tact and facility of resource, 
than they have, and that, all of us together have not more than is 
required. If appointed to the Secretaryship the study of my life would 
be the Country, its government, its legislation, and relations with the 
Mother Country and the surrounding Colonies. . . . To make this use 
of me would appear to be both sounder policy in your Lordship, 
and the Colonial Secretary, than to set me diving into Mail Bags or 
collecting Provincial duties.' 4 

Meanwhile Falkland wrote scathingly of 'the Society of Halifax', 
their 'violent private enmities,' their insignificance in number and 

1 'Your Lordship has ever been to me even more than a Brother.' Howe Papers, 
x. 4. 

2 Feb. 14, 1841, Letter-Books, 116. 33. 

3 'Which nobody but your Lordship has yet seen, not even McNab, nor shall 
ever see, unless circumstances compel us to act upon it.' Howe Papers, x. 46. 

* Id., x. 12. Cf. the subsequent trouble of the Canadian Reformers with 
Metcalfe's son-in-law, Captain Higginson, 'the eternal Secretary*. 


political influence, their isolation from their fellow citizens 'from 
a mistaken feeling of their own importance/ and the 'systematic 
opposition of some of the public functionaries in conjunction* with 
them, thus making the governor's 'social position ... a difficult 
one.' 1 

The violent reversal of all these relations in the contest which 
followed must have owed much of its bitterness for both parties 
to the intimate knowledge of each other's vulnerability. 


The dissensions with regard to 'the new system' were from the 
first irremediable, and the Reformers at the council table repeatedly 
invoked Falkland's best offices in vain to reconcile them. 

The presence there of Alexander Stewart passed in itself for a 
living demonstration of his opinions. From the safe vantage 
ground of the upper chamber Stewart openly denied that any 
'change had been made in the constitution'. 'Responsible govern- 
ment in a colony is responsible nonsense it was independence. 
If the responsible government aimed at ... were granted by a 
minister, he would deserve to lose his head.' Nothing but a formal 
declaration, forced through the council by the Reformers and 
sponsored before the Assembly itself by the Hon. E. M. Dodd 
'the Doddean confession of faith' could calm the speculations of 
the House upon the dissensions within the council chamber. The 
press was critical and sarcastic, and the Reformers themselves 
'half believed that the Government was written down'. 

In April, 1841, a more gracious personality than Alexander 
Stewart a star of dire portent to Howe and his party rose to 
the first magnitude in the Executive Council. Archibald was 
appointed Master of the Rolls, and James William Johnston suc- 
ceeded him as Attorney- General. It would be hard to imagine 
more virtues in sharper contrast than Johnston's and Howe's. 
Their portraits hang in the old Province Building on opposite 
sides of the Speaker's chair, symbols of rival cults which still 
divide the political traditions of Nova Scotia. Howe's stormy 
countenance is clouded with tempest. Johnston's serene and 
finely chiselled features are sunk in meditative repose. An intellect 
of great range and power, trained to the law and unrelieved by 
fancy or imagination, was in itself a foil to the gorgeous exuberance 

1 Falkland to Stanley, Dec. 22, 1841 ; Sept. 13, 1842. Letter-Books, 116. 128; 
117- 38. 


of Howe's. Unostentatious like his name, but graced with that 
'polish of manners' which had appealed to Durham and Buller 
in Quebec, Johnston moved with distinction in the most select 
circles of Halifax. But though his instincts were all Tory, his 
intellect, as a long series of reforms in Nova Scotia attests to this 
day, was almost as Liberal as Howe's. Howe himself so rated him 
in a confidential memorandum for Sydenham in 1840.* 

The contrasts between the two were intensified by their associa- 
tions. Johnston's finely wrought temper, aristocratic by instinct 
and by education, was combined with an incorruptible character 
of such austerity that scandal never marred its polished surface. 
Howe, a child of nature, with the pent-up energies of a volcano 
within his mind, moved in an atmosphere of boisterous self-confi- 
dence. Few surmised the existence of a secret chamber within that 
rugged spirit where Howe was wont to bow in humility and child- 
like simplicity at the great crises of his life. It was known that he 
had fought a duel, 3 that he had an illegitimate son, and that he was 
the choicest spirit in the province in that indefinable circle which 
Elgin once called 'the bhoys'. The stories of these escapades and 
a dozen others that were false were now set buzzing in every ear. 
Johnston, on the other hand, moved in a religious circle perhaps 
the most austere and pertinacious in the province. The Baptist 
traditions of Nova Scotia, like the Puritan traditions of New Eng- 

1 'Liberal but opposed to Majority of Assembly.' Howe to Thomson, July 20, 
1840. Howe Papers, vi. 18. 

2 The duel with Halliburton is thus referred to in a note which Howe left 
addressed 'To the People of Nova Scotia' : 'During the political struggle in which 
I have been engaged, several attempts have been made to make me pay the 
penalty of life for the steady maintenance of my opinions. . . . Well knowing 
that even a shadow of an imputation upon my moral courage would incapacitate 
me for serving my country with vigor and success hereafter, I feel that I am 
bound to hazard my life rather than blight all prospects of being useful. If 
I fall, cherish the principles I have taught, forgive my errors, protect my children.' 
To his wife he wrote: 'There shall be no blood on my hand'; Howe discharged 
his pistol into the air. To his sister he wrote less reservedly : * I had been long 
impressed with the conviction that it would have to be done with somebody at 
some time. ... So long as the party I opposed possessed all the legislative in- 
fluence they did not much mind my scribbling in the Newspapers when I got 
into the House they anticipated that a failure there would weaken my influence. 
. . . When however, they found I not only held my own against the best of them 
but was fast combining and securing a majority upon principles striking at the 
root of their monopoly, they tried the effect of wheedling, and that failing, 
resorted to intimidation.' 

Howe declined subsequent challenges, refusing to fire himself and 'having no 
fancy for being shot at, by every public officer whose intellect I might compare 
with his emoluments'. Howe Papers, vi. n, 12, 14. 


land from which they sprang , were scarcely to be understood by 
the ^uninitiated, but Johnston was the flower of their creed and 
their champion, and they repaid him by a loyalty which bordered 
upon fanaticism. 

A private dispute between Howe and a few of Johnston's co- 
religionists lit a long train of mischief. Private antipathies merged 
into public policy when a resolution to withdraw provincial grants 
from the four sectarian colleges of the province in favour of 'one 
good college, free from sectarian control, and open to all denomina- 
tions', passed the Assembly by a vote of 26 to 21. The project 
ran counter to one of the strongest tenets of the Baptist tradition, 
and Johnston, who was a governor of their college, soon found an 
eager band of followers lecturing, preaching, and writing in his 
support. This was a kind of warfare in which Howe had no 
match in British America, and the very weight of his guns, 
charged as they were with every kind of ammunition from 
argument to ridicule, transferred sympathy that of Falkland 
himself perhaps included to his opponents. The governor dis- 
covered that he had 'relied too much on the prudence and for- 
bearance of both these Gentlemen'. 1 In the end the issue of one 
provincial university appeared under the colours of a political 
party against the multiplication of sectarian colleges under the 
auspices of a coalition. 


A series of events, less personal in character, forced the governor 
in self-defence to rely increasingly upon the courtly counsels of his 
Attorney- General . 

The return of the Tories to power in Great Britain in September, 
1841, was followed by a rejuvenation of Toryism in the colonies. 
Howe's Tory colleagues now spoke without restraint, and many of 
their utterances were nicely calculated to compromise his waning 
influence with his followers. Falkland, too, soon found himself in 
difficulties. Howe warned him against more than one 'false move' ; 
reminded him that 'the enemy know everything which passes in 
our camp'; and added the shrewd comment that 'Stanley, like 
most people, will approve what seems safe, and has been shown to 
be successful' ? 

Falkland once ventured to discuss with Stanley the feasibility 

1 Letter-Books, 117. 122. 

1 Howe to Falkland, Howe Papers, x. 26. 


of a full party government, and also the re-opening of the civil list 
controversy; with a prospect, as he thought, that 'it may in the 
course of the next year be definitely settled'. 1 Beyond a doubt the 
hope of an accommodation with Huntington lay behind this shrewd 
move, for Falkland was in a position to know what Stanley did 
not that the casual and territorial revenues of the crown, which 
had warranted the nonchalant withdrawal of that issue from the 
Assembly by Campbell and Sydenham, were now for the first 
time unequal to the salaries charged upon them. The salaries were 
already in arrears. After a six years' contest with unpopular 
officials the Assembly professed no 'sympathy for the inconve- 
nience '. z The power of the purse was now for the first time in the 
hands of the Assembly, and Huntington's terms were a homo- 
geneous Liberal government and 'all the revenues of the country. . . 
under the control of the Assembly '.3 

But any range of discretion was quickly terminated by Stanley 
himself. Refusing a parliamentary grant, he instructed Falkland 
to 'apply to the Assembly' for the salaries. Falkland replied 
bluntly that 'if this plan be followed the house will refuse any grant 
whatever' : there was an 'invincible disinclination of the provincial 
parliament to act in conformity with Your Lordship's judgment 
in this particular'. 4 In the growing coolness thus developing 
between the governor and his Tory chief, Falkland, in desperation, 
approached Huntington for the third time. 5 Howe bent every art 
of advocacy to the task. But Huntington 'after many days 'delibera- 
tion' still resolutely declined. Falkland's vexation was extreme, 
and indeed the ruin of the coalition to which he was perforce com- 
mitted now seemed inevitable. 'From that moment', wrote Howe, 
'I have not attempted to disguise my convictions that the Admini- 
stration , as at present constituted , cannot go on a great while longer . ' 6 

Other factors in the disruption of the coalition are more easily 
traced. In September, 1842, Howe had accepted the office of 
Collector of Impost and Excise. 7 The same month Baldwin and 

1 Oct. 3, 1842. Letter-Books, 117. 43. 
- Aug. 18, 1843, id., 117. 112. 

3 Falkland to Russell, Feb. 14, 1841. Id., 116. 33. 

4 May 10, May 9, 1843. Id., 117. 99, 96. 

5 The fifth time since 1838. Falkland's previous offers in February and 
December, 1841. Howe Papers, i. 33, 61. 

6 Howe to Falkland, April 3, 1843. Id., vi. 39. 

7 ' I am quite sure that my having it in my power to name you . . . will not 
give you half the pleasure it has given me.' Falkland to Howe, Aug. 29, 1842. 
Id., i. 84. 


La Fontaine in Canada forced the Tories from the cabinet and 
quickly dominated a virtually party government under Sir Charles 
Bagot. It was not long before Falkland was loyally informed by 
Uniacke that 'an attempt to establish a party government would 
take place here', not by the Liberals but by the Conservatives 
themselves. 1 Stewart had approached Uniacke with a proposal 
'to embark in the same boat with himself and Mr. Johnston, form 
a junction between the Tories and Baptists . . . and throw Howe 
overboard'. Howe too, ignorant of this cabal against him, was 
'ready to come at once to the Canadian system', and to resign if 
necessary in order to give his colleagues 'a chance of trying the 
experiment'. 2 By the spring of 1843 the government was reduced 
to the lowest ebb of public confidence. Its members were c openly 
and shamelessly intriguing against each other'. A section of the 
press began a savage attack upon Howe's personal character. Not 
a single newspaper in the province now supported the government. 
Even the heads of departments were hostile, like 'pursers and 
doctors, who having little or no perils to encounter, spend their 
time in starving and poisoning the crew'. Howe reported that his 
friends had 'abandoned the task in despair' : 

'There is something more required to make a Strong Administration 
(he wrote bitterly to Falkland) than nine men treating each other 
courteously at a round table. There is the assurance of good faith 
towards each other of common sentiments, and kindly feelings, 
propagated through the friends of each, in Society, in the Legislature 
and in the Press, until a great Party is formed . . . which secures a 
steady working majority to sustain their policy and carry their 
measures. ... At the moment, although all the Members of the 
Council have some friends, the Government, as such, apart from 
your Lordship's personal influence, may be said to have none.' 3 


The turning-point in Howe's relations with Falkland was 
reached at the close of the session of 1843. Driven to desperation 
by his instructions on the one hand and by Huntington's recalci- 
trance on the other, Falkland found himself committed in sheer 
self-defence to Stanley's favourite expedient of disparaging 'dis- 
tinctions of local party'. Johnston, more discreet than Stewart, 
and well aware that the tide was now running in his favour, could 

1 Falkland to Stanley, Mar. 31, 1843. Letter-Books, 117. 80. 

a Howe to Falkland, Apr. 3, 1843. Howe Papers, vi. 39; x. 30. 

3 Apr. 3, 1843. //., vi. 39. 

34 1 * E e 


well afford to acquiesce without reservations. With studie 
moderation he drafted a memorandum against 'a party Goveri 
ment in Nova Scotia' which was duly approved by Falkland ar 
forwarded for Stanley's approbation. 

This 'cross-ruffle' in the game must have stirred to their deptl 
those infirmities of temper which Howe's enemies were now fc 
the first time learning to exploit to his undoing. Goaded to fui 
by a provocative notice of motion that 'no Excise officer . . . shoul 
hold a seat in the popular branch', Howe threatened an amenc 
ment 'that the time has now arrived when the gracious intentioi 
of Her Majesty with regard to these Colonies should be carried o\ 
in Nova Scotia by the formation of a Cabinet composed of heac 
of departments united in sentiment upon important public que: 
tions'. 1 Thus at last, whatever Howe might say to the contrar 
was the gage thrown for a homogeneous party government. A 
angry interview followed at Government House, and Falkland 
next dispatch to the Colonial Office, with all its interminab 
prolixity, scarcely conceals the fact that Johnston's star was no 
in the ascendant. 

To the governor's reproaches Howe replied, with more trut 
than discretion, that he had proposed * no thing which conflicts wit 
the system I always understood it to be your Lordship's wish 1 
introduce into this Province as early as circumstances would pe 
mit . . . the new system as contemplated by your Lordship an 
carried out in Canada'. 2 In a meeting of council, Howe, McNal 
and Uniacke added bluntly that the House could 'have r 
respect for a body made up of individuals who were supposed 1 
feel none for each other'. No longer now in a mood to make W 
for their enemies, and convinced that government measures coul 
no longer be carried through the Assembly by a council whic 
'no man of any political sagacity' now credited with mutual conf 
dence, the Reformers advised its reorganization in such a way as t 
command the confidence of the House. 

As late as March 31 Falkland was still ready to face anotht 
session the last before the election with the old coalition, upo 
the understanding that if a new House pronounced 'decidedly i 
favor of a party Government it will then be my duty ... to adhei 

1 ' Acting in harmony in both branches of the legislature and inspiring by tl 
respect which its members entertain for each other respect and confidence 
this house and throughout the country.* 

* Howe to Falkland, Apr. 3, 1843. Howe Papers, vi. 39. 


to that which is best capable of conducting the public business'. r 
This, it must be conceded, with Stanley in the Colonial Office and 
Metcalfe just assuming the reins of government in Canada, 
required no little courage ; but in the midst of the bitterest ex- 
changes between Howe and Johnston on 'the college question' 
in Howe's absence and against his written advice Falkland 
decided upon an immediate election as 'the only means by which 
I could hope to escape the necessity of immediately forming a 
Party Government'. 2 It was now too late to resign except upon 
the governor's undoubted right at that time to dissolve the 
House. Howe was 'trapped'. He had 'declared himself (so Falk- 
land wrote to Stanley) in favor of a party Government from the 
Hustings'; but the ghosts of all his labours for the Sydenham 
regime now rose up against him. 3 'Weary and sick at heart', his 
hands tied, the Nessus' shirt of office still upon his back, the pangs 
of resentment and wounded pride burning in his vitals, Howe 
found himself hoist with his own petard. 

At first the Reformers thought they had won the day. But 
Falkland under the shrewd advice of his Attorney- General thought 
otherwise. Johnston himself, formerly in the Legislative Council, 
was now a member of the Assembly. His presence there 'to give 
greater strength to the Government than it has hitherto possessed 
in that branch' had been cited to Stanley as Falkland's final 
motive for an immediate election. 4 A few weeks later Johnston 
appears in the governor's dispatches as 'the leader of my Govern- 
ment'. Interpreting the election as 'adverse to the establishment 
of a Party Government', and without awaiting a trial of strength 
in the new House, Falkland appointed Mr. Almon, Johnston's 
brother-in-law, to the Executive Council with a seat in the Legis- 
lative Council vacated by Johnston himself. The appointment, 
'after very mature deliberation', was intended as a demonstration 
in favour of 'a mixed Administration' ; but this reason was barbed 
by another which Falkland added, no doubt for Howe's special 
benefit, in an open letter which he published over his own name 
in the newspapers: 'because . . . from his affinity to Mr. Johnston 
... his appointment would be looked upon by the public as a proof 
of my confidence in that gentleman.' 5 

1 Falkland to Stanley, Letter-Books, 117. 80. 

2 Falkland to Stanley, Nov. 28, 1843. Id., 117. 122. 

3 Ibid. 

4 Ibid. 

5 Falkland to Stanley, Jan. i, 1844, id., 117. 141 ; Chisholm, op. cit. t i. 448. 


The same day (December 21), four weeks after the Metcalfe 
crisis in Canada, Howe, Uniacke, and McNab resigned. It was 
clear that 'responsible government by degrees' was approximating 
by degrees not to 'the new system ' but to the old. Many years 
afterwards when Grey was on the point of leaving office in England, 
Howe reflected upon his own plight in 1843. 'He has fortune 
(Howe notes in his diary), rank, and no family to support no 
debts to pay. When I went out I had debts to pay seven children 
to maintain no fortune, and ... a four years' fight for my good 
name against an infernal faction before me. He may wipe his eyes.' 
Thus ended for Howe the inglorious experiment of the Sydenham 
regime. Had Huntington been capable of malice towards his old 
friend what reminders must have passed between them as they 
began anew the task of reorganizing the fragments of their party 
in order to win back the commanding position of 1840? 



In Nova Scotia as in Canada the resignation of the Reformers in 
1843 was followed by one of the bitterest contests in the history 
of either province. It was Howe's opinion, recorded many years 
after his position as Provincial Secretary had given him access 
to the official correspondence, that there was 'a mysterious con- 
nection' between the two, and that Falkland in 'executing a coup 
d'etat of his own' had burnt his bridges and identified himself with 
the Tory regime of Lord Stanley. 1 In the midst of the conflict the 
charge was made with less reserve. 'I retired with my party', 
wrote Howe in his scathing indictment of Falkland in The Nova- 
scotian of March 16, 1846; 'you held on when yours threw up the 
reins and changed your policy that you might hold your place.' 2 

The contrast between the Howe- Falkland correspondence of 
1841-2 and the official dispatches of 1844 is in truth unmistakable. 
'My present position', Falkland wrote a week after Howe's resigna- 
tion, 'bears a remarkable similarity to that of the Govr. General 
of Canada.' 3 Henceforth Falkland's dispatches, like Metcalfe's, 
ring all the changes upon the approved Tory phrases of the day. 
Signs of party government which he had foreshadowed with com- 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 444, 445. 

2 Open letter in reply to the taunt of being a 'place-hunting mendicant*. 

3 To Stanley, Jan. i, 1844. Letter-Books, 117. 141. 


posure in March, 1843, were now 'instruments of mischief by 
plausible arid crafty demagogues'. The rights of minorities in such 
a system would be a 'nullity', and the sufferers the Halifax 
'Coterie', described by Falkland in vastly different terms two years 
before would be driven to 'transfer their allegiance to any 
Country which would relieve them from subjection to such a 
domination'. The result 'would not only very soon be destructive 
of any Coalition but . . . loosen the ties which bind the Colony and 
the Mother Country'. 'Matters have arrived at a Crisis', he wrote 
in March, 1844, after one of Howe's speeches in the Assembly, 'at 
which that Gentleman and those who support him must triumph 
absolutely or ... be resolutely excluded from office.' Nothing but 
'decided interference on the part of the British Government' could 
now stop the process: Falkland suggested a written constitution 
by Act of Parliament. Otherwise 'the Governor . . . would become 
in effect elective' ; he would be 'little else than the recording Clerk' 
of the Assembly; he would 'become utterly insignificant', and 
could 'without inconvenience be altogether dispensed with' ; he 
would become a 'mere expounder and advocate on all occasions 
of the opinions of the majority of the elective branch' 'a mere 
Cipher under their influence* . Such were now the aims of the 
'Ultras'. 1 

All this will sound strangely familiar to the student of the Met - 
calfe regime in Canada. But Falkland was shrewder in his tactics. 
He had not been Whig whip in the House of Lords for nothing. 
Metcalfe never descended to the level of Falkland's fierce vendetta 
against Howe or to the gaucherie of defending himself over his own 
name in the newspapers ; but on the other hand the obloquy under 
which Falkland left Nova Scotia was scarcely a measure of his 
success. While Metcalfe was forced to descend into the arena in 
person in order to win the election of 1844 w ^^ tne a ^ f Ryerson 
and the Methodists, Falkland had already snatched his majority 
of three by precipitating an election with the aid of Johnston and 
the Baptists. In a sense he had a less plausible cause and he fought 
with fewer weapons. The 'loyalty' cry which won the day in 
Canada was useless in Nova Scotia. 2 Not even Craskill, the 

1 Jan. i, Mar. 2, 1844; May 29, 1845, &c. Id., 117. 141, 155; 118. 103, &c. 

* Cf. Adam Fergusson to Howe, Jan. 15, 1844: 'The Tories are stirring 
Heaven and earth to get up Addresses to Sir Charles belching "Loyalty, loyalty" 
and in his answers I think he acts disingenuously by receiving all they say, with 
reciprocal expressions indirectly accusing all who differ with himself of disloyal 
principles.' Howe Papers, i. 114. 


Queen's printer, ever dared to level that 'antiquated blunderbuss* 
at Howe and the Nova Scotia Reformers. The term * Ultras* 
found its way into Falkland's vocabulary, but in truth their views 
were so moderate by comparison that Howe himself once dropped 
the word 'blunder' in deploring the decision of Baldwin and La 
Fontaine to risk and as it proved, to lose for more than four years 
what had been so precariously won. Craskill in The Morning 
Post once tried to identify the demands of Metcalfe's retiring 
councillors with 'what Falkland is required to do by his oppo- 
nents'. Howe was stirred from his customary banter to vehement 
denial : 

'In the name of the ex-Councillors, on the house-tops, before Lord 
Falkland's face; aye, in the presence of the Queen herself; wherever 
and whenever this charge is brought against James McNab, James B. 
Uniacke and Joseph Howe, to our dying day, we will pronounce it a 
base, black falsehood, without a shadow of foundation ; yes, and add, 
that no man knows better that it is so than the nobleman who thus 
instructs or permits his underling, to defame men, whom the plain 
unvarnished truth could not injure.' 1 

Despite the narrowness of his majority Falkland had disinte- 
grated the most resolute Reform party in British America ; and he 
never lost a vital division in the House. 2 His government, though 
it commanded a narrower majority, was stronger than Metcalfe's, 
and it lasted longer; and if Metcalfe's administration, as Glad- 
stone maintained, might 'justly be regarded as a model by his 
Successors', there was a word of commendation too for Falkland's. 3 
He finally left Nova Scotia at his own request, at the normal 
expiration of his term of office; and he was promoted to the 
governorship of Bombay. 


One advantage at least Falkland had over Metcalfe in Canada. 
His Attorney- General was an abler parliamentarian and a far 
shrewder politician. Much of the tactical success of these four 
years it would not be amiss to attribute to Johnston. By 1846 there 
was truth in Howe's gibe that he governed Nova Scotia 'with as 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 519. 

a 'Two or three recreant Liberals and all the "loose fish'* voting with the 
Government.' Howe to Hincks in the Montreal Pilot, May 15, 1844. 

3 To Cathcart, Feb. 3, 1846, G. Series, 449. 330; Gladstone to Falkland, 
Dec. 23, 1845; Falkland to Gladstone, Jan. 31, 1846. Letter-Books, 118. 165. 
With humour which must have escaped Falkland, Gladstone wrote that further 
details were perfectly unnecessary. A single sentence selected at random from 
Falkland's interminable dispatches contains 317 words. 


absolute an influence as Sir Robert Peel in England.' l There was 
something of PeePs hard, cool empiricism, too, in his method, and 
his was perhaps the only reputation which moved steadily forward 
throughout the Stanley regime. 

The contest into which Falkland and Howe now descended soon 
became the chamber of horrors in the traditions of political 
decorum in Nova Scotia. Without giving ground in his own 
defence, Howe himself once wished it possible to 'blot out this 
disgraceful page from our Provincial history'. 2 Falkland's reflec- 
tions when all was over can only be surmised, but if pride and an 
imperious temper, as his enemies maintained, were his besetting 
sins, bitterly must he have atoned for them. His new defenders 
in the Tory press were those who had never ceased to defame him, 
and his household, not always in the best of taste, during the Whig 
regime. Their comment had ranged from 'the bend sinister' 
'not only ... on his escutcheon, but on his heart' to his private 
secretary who was accused of 'robbing a pawnbroker's shop to 
replenish his wardrobe'. The 'Society' of Halifax which he had 
rated for their superciliousness now became his defenders, since 
he had made their cause his own ; and not without a touch of malice 
did they contemplate the 'Whig taskmaster' and his 'Whig 
Premier' belabouring each other by proxy or otherwise in every 
political newspaper in the country. 

For Howe, too, the situation had its ironies. The courtly serious- 
ness of Johnston with his 'indictment against a joke' under his 
arm, turning a lampoon on The Lord of the Bed-Chamber into a 
state paper and passing solemn censures upon 'breaches of decency 
and good manners', could be countered by a squib or a pasquinade. 
By speech and pen Howe made the most of it, but though the 
smile of good humour was always upon his lips, the gall of bitter- 
ness frequently filled his heart. 'They have scorned me at their 
feasts/ he once exclaimed, 'they have insulted me at their funerals !' 
Women shunned him in the street. Much of the coarseness which 
disfigured his banter during this period was Gargantuan in its 
directness and its force, but he frequently contemplated the desola- 
tion wrought by his pen with real sorrow. 'I know him', he once 
said of Falkland, 'perhaps better than he does himself.' The wrath 
that worked like madness in the brain was the reflex of hopes, per- 
haps the most ingenuous that Howe ever indulged, for his native 
province, for the Empire, and for his own services to both. 

1 Chisholm, op. at., i. 588. 3 Id. t i. 506. 


It cannot be necessary to explore this record in detail. Falkland 
demanded from Howe, Uniackc, and McNab the reasons for their 
resignations 'stated in writing 5 ; in reply to which he not only 
'answered those reasons', as he thought, but sent his letter to the 
newspapers for the benefit 'both of the people of the province and 
the members from the remote districts'. 1 Howe's rejoinder 
touched this gaucherie with great moderation, but it opened flood- 
gates of controversy which were never closed until Falkland left 
the province. Many of the governor's champions were volunteers. 
For several , however , the source of inspiration was never disputed 
an army surgeon who was an intimate of the governor's household, 
the Queen's printer who had supplanted Howe's friend Thompson 
in that office, and a contributor to the New York Albion under the 
name of ' Scrutator'. There was truth in Howe's defence that he 
bore this defamation for four months until May 6, 1844 before 
writing a single article against Lord Falkland; but he was un- 
fortunate in his fame, for while the malice of his detractors was 
mercifully forgotten with their names, the talc of his own Rabe- 
laisian humour in reply followed him as long as he lived. 

Until the end of February, 1844, Howe once declared, he would 
have burnt his house over his children's heads 'to have saved or 
to have served Lord Falkland'. 2 On the 24th the governor made 
overtures to the three Reformers to re-enter a coalition ; stipulating 
however certain conditions which all three declined 'in the most 
respectful manner'.^ On February 29 Howe met by chance a close 
personal friend of Lord Falkland's and his own, and after mutual 
counsels entrusted him with a confidential note 4 to the governor. 
The proposal was to be delivered under pledge of secrecy, returned 
if not received, and burnt if rejected. The note was brought back 
unopened with a declaration by the governor 'in a towering rage' 
that thenceforth there was to be 'war to the knife' between them. 
That evening The Gazette printed a dispatch from Stanley that 
the governor would be supported in 'resisting the pretensions of 
the retired Councillors'. Howe always maintained that friendly re- 
lations were 'severed by rudeness which no gentleman can defend.' 5 

1 Falkland to Stanley, Jan. i, 1844. Letter-Books, 117. 141. 
1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 529. 

3 Falkland to Dodd, Feb. 24, 1844; Dodd to Falkland, Feb, 26, 1844. 
Letter-Books , 117. 160, 163. 

4 Published in Chisholm, op. cit., i. 529. Howe suggested the retirement of 
two men, himself included, from either side, 'for the peace of the country'. 

5 Id., i. 510. 


For the political history of this period as for Howe himself the 
incident of February 29 was a turning-point. ' After that ill-judged 
publication in The Gazette', he afterwards said, 'the whole feeling 
of the Liberal party was changed/ l For more than three years the 
toil and restraints of office 'the ceaseless strife, heartless insin- 
cerity, and barren rewards of colonial public life' had been borne 
with a fortitude at which Howe's enemies themselves sometimes 
marvelled. 'For three years and a half, he wrote as he plunged 
again into the fray in The Novascotian (May i, 1844), 'we some- 
times doubted our own identity.' From the Stanley regime he now 
drew the devastating lesson of the Canadian 'Ultras' that 'modera- 
tion and magnanimity are thrown away'. 2 Recalling the chivalry 
of the contest of 1840 when the antagonists 'saluted each other as 
the first volley was fired and drank at the same stream when the 
battle was over', Howe now launched upon a 'more barbarous 
style of warfare' which embittered his most cherished memories, 
coarsened his nature, and stained his name ; lost him perhaps the 
first premiership under responsible government overseas in 1848, 
and in the end contributed not a little to fasten upon him the 
cardinal sin of indiscretion that barred him from the career he 
coveted beyond his native province. 


The overtures of February were renewed in July, but Falkland's 
resentment had now a better excuse in the torrent of pasquinades 
and lampoons, mingled with trenchant argument of another sort, 
which issued from the press of The Novascotian and Morning 

The July overtures were charged with mischief in every detail. 
Unlike those of February they were opened not through an inter- 
mediary but by a circular letter to Huntington, McNab, Uniacke 
Tobin, and Brennan the last two with a special appeal to the 
Roman Catholics of the province offering them seats in an Exe- 
cutive Council of twelve members with the express proviso, how- 
ever, that Howe was to be excluded .3 In th'e end all five declined 
McNab and Huntington immediately, the latter for the sixth 
time, and the others after prolonged negotiations. In the follow- 

1 Id., i. 530. 

* Letter to Hincks in the Montreal Pilot, May 15, 1844. 

3 Stanley's permission to increase the numbers from nine to twelve had been 
tfiven in February. 

34" F f 


ing February when the House met, the correspondence was 
made public, together with a dispatch to Stanley in such glaring 
violation of confidence and (as it afterwards appeared) of fact that it 
threatened for a time to destroy the Liberal party. 

Falkland wrote that 'the Opposition were ready for the exclusion 
of Mr. Joseph Howe, if I would consent to the formation of a 
Council of nine*. The details were to be arranged by Johnston 
after 'conference with Mr. J. B. Uniacke', while even Huntington 
and McNab were 'willing to reconsider their resolution'. Uniacke's 
final refusal was attributed only to the opposition of some of his 
followers. 1 The Opposition, added Falkland, had 'no acknow- 
ledged leader in the House (where, I believe, as well as in the 
country Mr. Howe's influence is greatly diminished)'. Howe's 
appointment would 'degrade the office I hold . . . and make Mr. 
Joseph Howe de facto Governor of Nova Scotia'. The issue had 
thus been reduced 'to a mere contest between myself and a politi- 
cal leader in the Province which I govern'. For the Reformers, as 
Howe wrote bluntly to one of his followers, the net result of the 
dispatch of August 2 would have been to 'fasten treachery on one 
Member disloyalty on another and poltroonery on all'. 

The debate which followed, upon a series of resolutions moved 
by Uniacke himself and seconded by Huntington, was bitter 
beyond all precedent. Uniacke's scathing indictment of the dis- 
patch in point of fact as well as faith was voted down by the 
government majority of three. Howe met the taunt of 'no acknow- 
ledged leader' by a stroke of magnanimity. 'Have they not?' he 
exclaimed. 'Then let there be no mistake about that point here- 
after/ He acclaimed Uniacke the 'acknowledged leader' of a 
Liberal party. 'That gentleman and I', he added, 'started from 
different points in life, with different friends and adverse opinions ; 
we contended in this arena till we understood each other and until 
the true principles of colonial government were developed by our 
collisions.' 2 The ominous reference in the dispatch to a 'private' 
correspondence with Stanley opened up vistas of influence that 
could never be reached through official channels. Like the ill- 
fated interview between Captain Higginson, 'the eternal Secretary', 

1 'Mr. Uniacke . . . felt that if he accepted it alone he could bring me no 
efficient support, but must abandon his party and by acting independently divest 
himself of all political influence in the Assembly.* The dispatch, Aug. 2, 1844, 
is printed in Chisholm, op. tit., i. 498 ff. 

* Id., i. 532. 


and La Fontaine in Canada, Falkland's dispatch of August 2 did 
more perhaps than any other incidents in either province to dis- 
credit the whole Russellite theory of governance from Downing 
Street. But while the Higginson-La Fontaine interview had been 
egregiously misinterpreted in Metcalfe's dispatches, it had been 
made public only by Stanley himself in the British debates. 1 The 
publication of the dispatch of August 2 was aimed at close quarters 
and with deadly precision at the morale of the Reformers in Nova 
Scotia. 'An honest fame', exclaimed Howe, 'is as dear to me as 
Lord Falkland's title is to him. His name may be written in 
Burke 's Peerage; mine has no record but on the hills and valleys 
of the country which God has given us for an inheritance, and must 
live, if it lives at all, in the hearts of those who tread them.' 

'That my friends and colleagues ever consented to sacrifice or aban- 
don me for thus defending them may be believed at the Colonial 
Office, on the assertion of an officer bound by every honourable con- 
sideration to tell the truth ; but it has been flatly denied here and wiL 
not be believed by ten men who know these gentlemen from one end 
of the Province to the other. ... I have no fears of forfeiting Lord 
Stanley's good opinion, when all the facts are put before him, and 
before I arn many years older he shall, if God spares my life, have the 
means of judging fairly between Lord Falkland and Joseph Howe.' 2 

A few days later Howe broached to Charles Buller a plan 'tp go 
to England in the Spring ... to clear up the misrepresentations to 
my prejudice which I am certain have been made at the Colonial 

The last in this chapter of incidents, perhaps the most regrettable 
on either side, inflamed the contest and made it irremediable. 
Among the many projects for a railway to Quebec during the 
'forties was one for which the Speaker of the Assembly, William 
Young Huntington's colleague in the mission of 1839, and after- 
wards Chief Justice and his brother, also a member of the House, 
were acting as solicitors. During the session of 1846 (February 
21) there was 'brought down and read before the Speaker's face 
a dispatch in which he and his brother were referred to as asso- 
ciates of 'reckless' and 'insolvent' men. The sequel may be given 
in Howe's own words. The Speaker was 'for the moment power- 
less'; his brother was 'apparently stunned by the blow, and every- 

1 See below, p. 296. 

2 Chisholm, op. cit. y i. 531, 502. 

3 Feb. 28, 1845. Howe Papers y Letter-Book, 1839-1845. 


body else seemed bewildered. . . . The Governor had smitten the 
Speaker ... in his chair, before the whole House/ Howe leaped 
to his feet and spoke two sentences. The first was a protest 
* against the infamous system ... by which the names of respectable 
colonists are libelled in despatches sent to the Colonial Office, to 
be afterwards published here . . . without their having any means 
of redress'. The second was never forgotten against him. 'If that 
system be continued', he added, 'some colonist will, by-and-by, 
or I am much mistaken, hire a black fellow to horsewhip a Lieu- 
tenant-Governor.' x In a moment the House was in an uproar. 
The Speaker himself confessed that he was 'thunderstruck'. That 
evening all Halifax discussed the lese-majeste with bated breath. 
Next day the House cleared the galleries and debated a vote of 
censure. Howe conceded that the case was 'quaint and eccentric 
and startling', like the prophet's 'when he compared the great king 
to a sheep-stealer' ; but (he added) 'David let other men's wives 
alone after that flight of Nathan's imagination.' 2 But he had gone 
too far. The censure passed the House 29 to 20. The revulsion 
was felt even in the counties where Howe's support was strongest. 
With two scathing letters to Falkland he severed his connexion 
a second time with The Novascotian in April, 1846, and retired to 
his farm on the Musquodoboit. His parting injunction to Falkland 
showed wit and temper alike unrepentant: 'On one point (he 
wrote) your scribe has been correctly informed. I am about "to 
retire from the metropolis and turn up the soil of Musquodoboit". 
. . . But, hark ye, my Lord, in order that we may be good friends 
you had better keep your pigs out of my garden and not attempt to 
plant tares among my wheat.' 


In Nova Scotia as in Canada the bearing of this war of personali- 
ties upon the main issue of responsible government in its final 
form was more direct than either set of antagonists foresaw. It 
demonstrated the alternative in a form so forbidding that no 
colonial governor ever repeated the experiment. 

It was the logical outcome of the Sydenham regime. If the 
governor was to be 'the minister' and go down in person into the 
market-place, he must expect the usages of the market-place not 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 594. 

1 Letter to the Freeholders of the County of Halifax, Feb. 23, 1846. Ibid. 


without its dust and heat. To dominate two groups of men like 
Hincks, La Fontaine, Sullivan, and Baldwin in Canada, or Howe, 
Uniacke, Young, and Huntington in Nova Scotia strong both of 
them in the confidence of their countrymen, and not without a 
consciousness of their own intellectual powers required the 
mercurial genius of a Sydenham; and nothing is more certain, as 
we shall see, than that Sydenham himself must have failed, had 
he remained in Canada, to find in such men merely *a very useful 
and powerful engine in the hands of the Governor*. To Metcalfe 
and to Falkland it seemed that to withdraw from the market- 
place, to 'hold the balance even', to 'remain neuter during the 
Contest and then distribute the prizes among the Victors', was to 
become a 'nullity', 'a mere Cipher'. It was left to Harvey and 
Elgin to discover what had escaped the Indian Viceroy and the 
Whig whip : that it was possible to build up a vast moral influence 
for good by shunning 'the neant of mock sovereignty' on the one 
side and 'the dirt and confusion of local factions' on the other 
'an influence of suasion, sympathy, and moderation, which softens 
the temper while it elevates the aims of local politics'. 1 Thus while 
Falkland committed to an official dispatch the details of confiden- 
tial negotiations obtained at second hand from interested advisers, 
and published the result to confound his enemies, Elgin followed 
a different practice. In tracing the Caron-Morin negotiations in 
1847 he indicated his ministers by their initials in the privacy of 
'secret' and confidential correspondence with his uncle. By this 
time Grey also, in the Colonial Office, had discovered 'the great 
arcanum*. 'You & the Home Government (he wrote) belong to 
neither party & have nothing to do with their contests. . . . This 
principle must be completely established in order long to preserve 
our connection with the Colony.' 2 

How far Falkland had fallen from this high estate is seen in his 
own dispatches. 'Duty (he wrote) did not admit of my remaining 
neuter' ; 3 and in taking sides he had identified himself with those 
whose interest it was to exploit his office in destroying their own 
enemies. It is not on record that Falkland's courtly advisers 
exerted their influence to withhold the dispatch of August 2 or the 
reflections upon the business associations of the Speaker. Having 

1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, July 13, 1847; Walrond, op. cit., p. 126. 

2 Elgin to Grey, Apr. 26, 1847, 'Secret'. Grey to Elgin, July 17, 1847, 
'Private*. Grey -Elgin Correspondence. 

3 To Stanley, Mar. 2, 1844. Letter-Books, 117. 155. 


taken sides in the contest the governor had no more 'escape from 

this thraldom' than had Sir Colin Campbell. If Howe was 'trapped* 

in 1843, so now was Falkland. 'He has quarrelled with one party', 

said Howe, 'and must rule by the other or throw up the reins and 

retire. 5 

The effect of the quarrel upon Howe was not so obvious. 'The 
war of the newspapers' has been left as far as possible in the back- 
ground. That Howe in the end was content with the score is 
easily believed. 'Lord Falkland got his salary', he notes in re- 
counting his financial straits during these years, 'but I think in 
other respects we are square.' 'But for the passages of arms 
between us', he wrote again to John Kent, his closest friend in 
Newfoundland, 'there were some tricks of fence I had not known. 
Besides, I now estimate at their true value some sneaking dogs 
that I should have been caressing for years to come, and lots of 
noble-hearted friends that only the storms of life could have 
taught me adequately to prize.' x A week after the vote of censure 
in the House he protested to Buller that Falkland's 'petty persecu- 
tion of myself has more than restored to me the popularity I lost 
while a Member of his Government.' 

In a sense this was true, for Howe's quarrel with Falkland was 
both less and more than statesmanship. It violated 'the princi- 
ples', as we shall see, but Howe's sturdy independence appealed 
mightily to human nature, as the 'sturdy yeomanry' of Nova 
Scotia remembered to his credit. 'We would not allow the proud- 
est duke that ever stood behind a throne', he once exclaimed, 'to 
play such antics in Nova Scotia without letting him feel that there 
was at least one person in the Province a little prouder than him- 
self, and quite conscious that 

"The rank is but the guinea stamp 
A man's a man for a 5 that." ' 

'It is a trifle to damn a Nova Scotian's character', he added, in the 
same debate, 'but an unpardonable offence to hint that a nobleman 
wears a shirt.' 2 

But there was another side to the story. Every thrust at the 
governor stultified his own principles, for if the governor's ad- 
visers were indeed to be held 'responsible', the governor's own 
office must be kept sacrosanct. In Canada Baldwin had preached 

1 Howe Papers, Letter-Book, 1839-1845; id., vi. 96. 

* A reference to the first line of The Lord of the Bed-Chamber'. 'The Lord of 
the Bed-chamber sat in his shirt.* 


the same doctrine; but Baldwin practised it, too, with the inflexi- 
bility of a Robespierre. In Nova Scotia the two antagonists, with 
months of intimacy behind them, stood perhaps at too close 
quarters. The fiction was too thin, the facts too palpable. With 
instinctive pugnacity, incited by a challenge which could scarcely 
be put aside, and directed by an uncanny knowledge of the gover- 
nor's vulnerability, Howe struck home with a recklessness that left 
his best friends aghast. 

The colossal egotism, too, which afterwards proved his undoing 
was already in evidence. It had appeared in the feud with Johnston 
over the ' college question' perhaps the most costly of his errors 
in tactics during the Falkland regime. 1 The rise of Uniacke to the 
leadership and eventually to the premiership in 1848 was not un- 
related to these infirmities of temper. The unmeasured badinage 
of these years, 'rude and intemperate' as Howe himself confessed it 
to be, was scarcely more baleful for Falkland's prestige than for 
his own. A year after his retirement to his farm, 'like Cincinnatus 
to his plough', he wrote to his friend Leishman a revelation of the 
party and of himself which is surely unique. There is a 
scathing word for the lack of Tarty organization and action' except 
for 'the few bold fellows in Halifax and elsewhere'; for the 'bland 
and half apologetic smiles' towards the government benches ; for 
the sympathy for himself which 'our party show ... by going to 
dine' with Falkland; for their complacency, 'after boasting what 
they are going to do', in deciding to 'eat their leeks and do nothing' : 
'This sort of discipline, and moral tone never did and never will 
win any battle, martial or political. I have witnessed deplored 
struggled against it for three Sessions, and must confess I find but 
little honor to be won. . . . On the other side the organization is perfect 
the leader uncompromising, the morale of the service active and 
elevated. We are a body of very honest and well meaning people, 
going to capture the Sepulchre, with "good intentions" and we have 
to deal with pagans, who while they trust in the Prophet, know the 
value of close ranks, discipline and chain mail. . . . To break my own 
heart, while everybody else does what seems right in his own eyes, or 
does nothing, or does worse, is to waste life to very little purpose. . . . 
I must confess I am heartily sick of the service.' 2 

1 'The Liberals were somewhat weakened by a stupid sectarian prejudice 
among the Baptists/ Howe to Duller, Feb. 28, 1845. Letter-Book, 1839-1845. 
Howe Papers. 

1 'It is now about twenty-seven months since we retired, during which I be- 
lieve I have written as many quires. . . . With the exception of a few articles 
by George Young, and a few more by Doyle, not a man of our party in the House 



Whatever Howe's own plight, however, the state of the party 
was not so desperate; and indeed his own letters to Charles 
Fisher of New Brunswick, to Isaac Buchanan and Adam Fergusson 
in Canada, and to the most valued of all his correspondents, 
Charles Buller in England, are still pitched as usual to the key of 
an abounding confidence in 'the cause'. 1 The issue was nearer to 
a solution than they thought. 

The governor in siding with one party had made the triumph 
of the other, sooner or later, inevitable. The issue, Howe claimed 
in 1844, was 'already decided. The Liberals will have party 
government or ample justice ; and the Tories can form no other.' 2 
For a time Falkland deluded himself with Sydenham's project for 
'a third and moderate party', but it was quickly ground to pieces 
between the other two. 3 The epitaph which Howe once volun- 
teered for his rival was already true: 'Here lies the man who de- 
nounced party government, that he might form one; and pro- 
fessing justice to all parties, gave every office to his own'. 'All that 
we intend when we change the majority', he added, 'is to follow 
the example set by the other side.' 4 Falkland himself saw the hand- 
writing on the wall. If he would not have a Liberal government, 
they could at least force him to have a Tory one, and thus in effect 
'forqe ... a party Government'. This Tarty aspect', to be sure, 
was less objectionable than 'the admission to the Council of men 
openly holding principles . . . destructive of any Coalition,' but in 
the end they 'must triumph absolutely'. 'The Crisis' could be met 

has written a line. . . . Johnston, a fortnight ago, boldly stood up and defended 
Craskill (the Queen's printer). . . . When the Novascotian and Chronicle were 
assailed, not one Liberal in the House justified or defended me, and several 
timidly declared they never wrote in Newspapers. Is it then to be wondered at 
that of late, I should study and not ivrite ? 

I attend twenty-four meetings. . . . While attending one of these, my friends 
combine with my enemies to give me a kick . . . 

I often feel that I should be safer, and quite as useful, if I stood alone and, 
if things go on as they have been going, I shall either take that position, or quit 
public life.' Howe to Leishman, 'Spring, 1846'. Howe Papers, vol. vi. 

1 Even the jeremiad to Leishman may have been written largely for effect 
at a committee meeting which Howe was unable to attend : ' If I went to the 
meeting, and told the Committee all this, it would not mend the matter and 
might make things worse/ Ibid. 

* 'Lord Falkland has done more to advance the development of this principle 
by his impolitic attempt to retard it, than all the agitators in Nova Scotia could 
have done in ten times the number of years.' Chisholm, op. cit., i. 494. 

3 Falkland to Stanley, Jan. i, 1844. Letter-Books, 117. 141. 

* Chisholm, op. ctt. t i. 541, 559. 


by nothing short of a British Act of Parliament. 1 Thus was Saul, 
too, numbered among the prophets. 

To such a pass, then, was 'colonial government' at last reduced ; 
and perhaps no apter commentary than this of Falkland's could be 
found upon the theme of these essays and its swift denouement 
which we have now to trace. No Charter, no Act of Parliament, had 
marked the humble beginnings of the Nova Scotia Assembly in the 
'royal' province of the first Empire. Reflecting for nearly a century 
the slowly changing 'conventions' of colonial governance, the 
relations between governor and Assembly, like those between the 
Crown and the House of Commons in Great Britain, were still 
undefined by Imperial legislation. The province now stood upon 
the threshold of self-government. The most distinctive of all these 
empirical adjustments was not to be denied. Governors and 
Assemblies in unbroken succession had met in the old Province 
Building. They were now to meet there, in a sense for the last 
time in the second Empire ; for despite the humble surroundings 
and the simplicity of the change itself, a 'new and prodigious era' 
was about to begin. 

Falkland himself had stated the unanswerable problem in the 
Whig days of 1842: since Nova Scotia, unlike Canada, had 'no 
constitution defined by act of Parliament', how was the governor 
to 'obey the instructions of his superior officer, the colonial 
minister' if the contest ever took the form of 'a party against a 
Governor' ? z By 1846 Falkland and Howe, the governor and the 
Assemblyman, had moved to opposite poles of policy. For both 
of them 'the Crisis' had arrived the one contemplating the 
brutum fulmen of an Act of Parliament, the other in the autumn 
solitudes of his Musquodoboit farm, chastened by reflection to a 
new discernment of the change in store for his native province. 

With the main theme of Howe's second series of Letters to Lord 
John Russell, written deprofundis during these months at Musquo- 
doboit, we are not here concerned, but in more than one historic 
passage the mode of the coming Commonwealth is prophetically 
foreshadowed. 'We must be Britons', exclaimed Howe, 'in every 
inspiring sense of the word' : 

'You have no Act of Parliament to define the duty of the Sovereign 
when ministers are in a minority; we want none to enable us to 
suggest to a Governor when his advisers have lost the confidence of 

1 Falkland to Stanley, Mar. 2, 1844. Letter-Books, 117. 155. 
* Falkland to Stanley, Aug. 1842. Letter-Books, 117. 30. 

34" G g 


our colonial Assemblies. But what we do want, my Lord, is a rigid 
enforcement of British practice . . . the intelligence and public spirit 
of the people will supply the rest/ l 

With the second Letters to Lord John Russell Howe's public life 
entered upon a new phase. There is a new incisiveness, 'a glint 
of steel' ; a new note, too, of confidence, not without reason. 2 The 
letter to Leishman had marked the darkest hour before the dawn. 
The day had already broken across the Atlantic. In July, 1846, 
the Whigs under Lord John Russell had come back to power in 
Great Britain, with the third Earl Grey at the Colonial Office. 
In September, Buller acclaimed to Howe at last 'a Colonial 
Secretary who has sound views of Colonial Policy*. The change, 
as we shall see, came barely in time. Howe was 'devilish glad . . . 
to see the Whigs back', but his reply to Buller was not to be mis- 
understood : 

'The men who drove the old Colonies to desperation, thought Jeffer- 
son, and Franklin, and Washington, very inferior to the merest 
drivellers by whom they were surrounded, and now we suppose the 
prevailing idea, at home is, that, though "there were giants in those 
days", the race is extinct. God send them all more wisdom if this 
Whig Government disappoints us, you will have the questions I have 
touched discussed in a different spirit, ten years hence, by the 
Enemies of England, not by her friends.' 3 


The most fortunate coincidence for Lord Falkland's administra- 
tion in Nova Scotia was the date of his departure. A few weeks 
after the appointment of Sir John Harvey as his successor, a 
Durhamite succeeded to the Colonial Office, sharing, no doubt, 
Charles Buller 's opinion that Falkland had 'certainly mismanaged 
matters . . . most miserably'. 4 

Measured by length of service and general popularity in the 
provinces which he administered Harvey was perhaps the most 

1 Chisholm, op. cit. t i. 613-14. 

1 'The evils . . * from such a system North America has endured; but in her 
name, my Lord, I think I may be pardoned for desiring that it shall have an end.' 
Id., i. 615. 

3 Buller to Howe, Sept. 10, 1846 ; Howe to Buller, Oct. 28, 1846. The Corre- 
spondence between Joseph Howe and Charles Buller, 1845-1848, ed. Chester 
Martin, Can. Hist. Rev., Dec., 1925, pp. 316, 319. 

4 Id., p. 316. 


successful governor since the American Revolution. Without the 
brilliant personal achievements of Durham or Sydenham or Bagot 
to his credit it was his good fortune to govern four provinces in 
succession, in all of which his name is gratefully associated with 
reform. He had been a soldier under Abercromby in Egypt. He 
served as Adjutant-General and Governor's Secretary during the 
War of 1812. He was the hero of Stoney Creek. In Ireland he 
drafted a memorandum (1830) which the Colonial Office gave 
confidentially to Gosford for his Canadian mission. 1 His governor- 
ship of Prince Edward Island was too brief scarcely more than 
a year to restore harmony to that distracted province, but in 
1837 he was transferred to New Brunswick to compose the quarrel 
between his predecessor and the Assembly, and to carry out, as 
we have seen, the most distinctive reforms effected up to that time 
in British America. In 1839 Harvey's phrase 'a new, and . . . im- 
proved Constitution' was appropriated by reformers throughout 
British America as an official estimate of Lord John Russell's 
dispatch of October 16. An unfortunate conflict with Sydenham 
in the 'Aroostook War' over the Maine boundary had led to his 
recall by Lord John Russell himself after one of the most regret- 
table incidents in colonial history. In Newfoundland he left 
behind in 1846 not only friends but defenders for the ordeal which 
now lay before him in Nova Scotia. It was his good fortune there, 
as we shall see, to preside over the first formal concession of 
responsible government overseas. When he retired in 1851, after 
nearly sixty years of public service, Howe referred to him with 
deep emotion as 'my venerable chief. While it would not be true 
to say that Sir John Harvey conceived or indeed did much to 
effect the greatest of these reforms, his frankness, his 'imperturb- 
able bonhomie', his obvious goodwill, were invaluable agencies in 
the process. 

Harvey's appointment to Nova Scotia by Gladstone in Peel's 
administration was not at first sight reassuring. He was the last 
of the 'military governors' ; and perhaps the most scathing sentence 
in Howe's second series of Letters to Lord John Russell was reserved 
for the 'rulers snatched from the tented field or the quarter-deck', 
to whom the British constitution appeared 'a prurient excrescence, 
defacing the articles of war'. 2 'These Military statesmen', Buller 
agreed, were wedded to the 'notion of a Composite Ministry' under 

1 Harvey to Howe, Dec. 9, 1846. Howe Papers, i. 189. 
a Chisholm, op. cit. t i. 619. 


the delusion that they were 'the most useful instruments for them- 
selves not knowing that Coalitions always damage all engaged to 
them & fail all who lean on them'. 1 

In this respect Harvey, as it proved, was no exception; and his 
friend John Kent of Newfoundland, a reformer who had stolen the 
* promethean fire . . . from Nova Scotia', was deeply concerned for 
his reputation. *No person knows his weaknesses better than I do', 
he wrote to Howe. 'I should regret exceedingly if the success . . . 
of Sir Jno. Harvey in three Provinces were to meet a grave in 
Nova Scotia.' 3 But Kent agreed with Sir John that Coalitions . . . 
are absolutely necessary in the Colonies', thus confirming Buller's 
forecast and confirming Howe, too, in his unalterable conviction. 
He had learnt his lesson. Surely in vain is the net spread in the 
sight of any bird : 

'The time for seduction, intrigue and splitting of parties (he replied 
to Kent) has gone by in Nova Scotia. Johnston can give Sir John no 
Coalition, for not a Liberal, will act with him. . . . Do not be much 
surprised if your old friend is victimized by the same influences which 
destroyed his predecessors. I shall do my best, as in duty bound, to 
serve him he has a thousand good qualities, and is very civil to me, 
but I fear may not understand my countrymen, and may fail by rely- 
ing on expedients which, however they may have answered elsewhere, 
are not suited to our meridian.' 3 

To Harvey's first overtures (September 14, 1846) Howe replied 
that the issue was now too momentous for compromise. i Political 
principles and the rights of vast bodies of people are involved in 
the present struggle.' None but an apostate or a deserter could 
4 abandon or sacrifice these after a ten years' contest'. 4 Thus while 
Harvey's name in Nova Scotia might have ranked with Campbell's 
or Falkland's had Stanley or Gladstone remained at the Colonial 
Office, he was saved by a new spirit in Downing Street, and by 
his own pliancy of temper. When responsible government became 
inevitable he responded not only witn goodwill but with a growing 
reliance upon his new advisers. They in turn responded with a 
loyalty surely unique in the British provinces ; voting him an in- 
crease of salary, defending him against the Colonial Office itself, 
and associating his name with their own in the first achievement 
of responsible government. 

1 The Howe-Buller Correspondence, p. 320. 

: Dec. 10, 1846. Howe Papers, i. 193. > Id. y vi. 96. 4 Id.> xxix. 20. 



The various negotiations which began with Harvey's arrival in 
August, 1846, followed the well-beaten track of the Sydenham 
regime. In a memorandum addressed to Howe his 'excellent and 
talented friend' Harvey offered himself as 'a mediator and a 
Moderator between the influential of all Parties', with the plausi- 
ble and familiar plea of eschewing 'any one Party' in order to 
command 'the support of all*. These views, added Sir John, he 
had 'expounded to the Home Government 5 . 1 But other views had 
already been expounded there to better purpose ; for while Harvey 
and his councillors were exploiting for the last time the barren 
subtleties of a coalition, the Reformers, with Charles Buller as 
liaison officer, were perfecting their historic alliance with the 
British Durhamites, now in the Colonial Office. A special interest 
attaches to this confidential intercourse, for it predetermined not 
only the general principles but the tactics in detail for the impend- 
ing change. 

There were three courses open to the governor. His own prefer- 
ence for a coalition was never concealed. One alternative was an 
immediate dissolution of the Assembly. In the last resort he could 
await the general election due in the summer of 1847 and thus 
allow 'the political clock to run down*. 

It is clear that the Reformers themselves were not altogether in 
agreement. Howe's opposition to a coalition was now unalterable. 
'With the members of the existing Council', reads the memoran- 
dum signed by Howe, Doyle, McNab, and George Young on 
December 17, 1846, 'we can enter into no political alliance until 
the people of Nova Scotia decide between them and us.' 2 In this 
the Reformers were supported without reserve by Charles Buller. 
'I was delighted', he wrote to Howe, 'to find that you & your 
friends stood so firm against the Lt. Govrs. notion of a Composite 
Ministry. '3 On the other hand Uniacke, who was in London in 
October, was still prepared to act in a coalition, not 'as a wise course 
but one which might aid a Governor disposed to act impartially.' 
'I am aware', he added, 'that many contend for exclusive party 
government but I have misgivings as to its working in a small 
Colony like Nova Scotia but I keep these sentiments to myself and 
I shall urge a dissolution.' 4 In the end, as we shall see, the ranks 

1 Sept. 14, 1846. Id., i. 158. * Chisholm, op. cit., i. 636. 

3 The Howe-BitHer Correspondence, p. 322. 

Uniacke to Howe, Oct. 19, 1846, Howe Papers, i. 171. 


of the Reformers proved invincible, and the policy which Hunting- 
ton had advocated unceasingly for ten years came at last into its own. 

The first alternative an immediate dissolution was advocated 
by all the Reformers. Howe suggested it to Duller and Grey as 
early as September i6, J and to Harvey himself two days later. 
Uniacke advocated it in London. It is clear that the situation was 
canvassed at the Colonial Office with every precaution against a 
false step at so critical a juncture. But the arguments against it 
were found to be conclusive. To act 'against the advice of his ad- 
visers for the time being' would be 'an extreme course, inconsis- 
tent with the usual course of representative Govt/." Duller might 
have added that a forced dissolution was strange doctrine from 
those who condemned the forced dissolution of 1843. Dut while 
the government must continue * until they are beaten in the Assem- 
bly', the defection of two 'waiters on Providence' would leave them 
in a minority, and 'one hostile vote of the House would settle the 
matter'. More expeditiously still Sir John might force the resigna- 
tion of his council in filling the vacancies at the council table. 
At the worst, added Duller, 'you will wait a year longer, but it will 
be a recognition of the Principle of Responsible Government . . . 
Ld. Grey's good intentions you may rely on. I do not think that 
even Ld. Stanley in his place could thwart you. '3 

It is easy to see in this the theme of Grey's historic dispatch of 
November 3, 1846,4 which undoubtedly passed through Buller's 
hands and two months later was placed in those of Elgin upon the 
eve of his departure for Canada. Thus were evolved, in Grey's 
own phrase, the guiding principles 'of general application to all 
colonies having a similar form of government'. s The transition 
from the second Empire to the Commonwealth is implicit in this 
dispatch. For the first time it authorized 'the fullest adoption of 
the principle of Responsible Government'. 'I have not the slightest 
fear', added Duller, 'but that Sir J. H. will show himself perfectly 
ready to entrust his Govt. to those who have the confidence of a 
majority of the Assembly.' 6 

1 'Dissolve our House, and you will have no more trouble in Nova Scotia for 
the next four years.' The Howe-Buller Correspondence, p. 318. 
" Nov. 18, 1846. Id., p. 320. 

3 Ibid. 

4 Brit. Parl. Papers, Aug. 10, 1848 (621), pp. 7 ff. ; Egerton and Grant, 297 ff. ; 
Kennedy, 570 ff. 

5 Grey's Colonial Policy of the Administration of Lord John Russell, p. 208. 

6 The Hozue-Buller Correspondence , p. 320. 



In this, however, Howe was the better prophet. Harvey's 
predilections for a coalition were soon allied with Johnston's in- 
domitable resourcefulness in a desperate attempt to stave off the 
impending change. 

The negotiations for a coalition were foredoomed to failure, and 
they are perhaps negligible here except as they reflect the tradi- 
tional temper of the old order. Johnston's was perhaps the most 
masterly of rear-guard actions in the British provinces against the 
slowly enveloping forces of reform. It is easy to vindicate a suc- 
cessful cause. It is not so easy for another generation, inheriting 
the kingdom without a struggle, to deal justly by those who feared 
the change; who, identifying 'party government* with 'the spoils 
system', then at its worst in the United States, dreaded the crudi- 
ties of the new order, and clung desperately to the studied decorum 
of the old. Responsible government has seldom raised at once the 
standards of public life. In Canada La Fontaine and Sullivan both 
resigned at last, in disgust with 'the tracasseries of Political life'. 
When Baldwin retired Elgin rated him the 'most Conservative 
public man in Canada'. 1 Hincks, who was as little troubled as 
any man in either province by 'squeamishness' in politics, once 
conceded that party spirit was nowhere in the world bitterer than 
in Canada. An austere Tory like Johnston, with no illusions about 
the humble 'affairs of this small colony', could bring as much of 
moderation, and perhaps of conviction also, to the conflict as 'the 
tribune' himself. Retreating warily, making a little ground and 
giving more, he stood at last with his back to the wall for the last 
session before 'the great election'. 

With Harvey's views on a 'mixed government' in 1846, as with 
Falkland's in 1843, Johnston hastened to agree. Two vacancies 
in the council were already available for Reformers. Two Tory 
councillors Almonand Dodd agreed to make way for two others. 
The prospect of Johnston's relative making way for Howe's must 
have appealed to Doyle's sense of humour. 2 Harvey never plied 
his 'imperturbable bonhomie' with better will or with less effect. 
Howe retired warily to Musquodoboit in order to avoid all re- 

1 Elgin to Grey, June 28, 1851. Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

3 'That Mr. Almon should be willing to resign . . . we confess, does surprise 
us. The reason given for his elevation in 1843 was his "affinity** to the Attorney- 
General . . . the relationship still exists.* Howe, Doyle, McNab, and Young to 
Harvey, Dec. 17, 1846. Chisholm, op. cit. t i. 637. 


sponsibility for the inevitable deadlock. Harvey followed him 
with assurances of Grey's appreciation for the Letters to Lord John 
Russell ; with news of 'a communication from England which 
I should have been glad to show you'; with hopes of 'an early 
opportunity of doing so indeed (he added) from the present com- 
plexion of affairs you must I think be here shortly'. 1 But in Howe's 
reply there is a new dexterity ' tricks of fence', as he wrote to 
Kent at the time, learnt from passages at arms with Falkland. He, 
too, had had 'a very interesting letter by the Packet' which had put 
him 'in possession of the views taken, at home, of affairs here'. 
If negotiations were to break down 'as I think they must', he 
added shrewdly he would be ready to attend the governor, and 
a day or two will be sufficient to put matters right'. 2 

There were tricks of fence on both sides. The formal reply, 
signed by Howe, Doyle, McNab, and Young on December 17, 
was a masterpiece of advocacy. Johnston in the House refused to 
bring it down, while his own brief was spread with skill and re- 
sourcefulness upon the Journals. With studied poise he appealed 
to Elgin, then on his way to his great task in Canada, and drew 
from him a warning against the use of 'patronage and power' for 
the purchase of party support. Elgin himself, as we shall see, 
repeated in Canada, with Morin and Caron, the tactics of Harvey 
for a coalition in Nova Scotia. 3 A memorandum of January 28 for 
Harvey and the House was followed two days later by another for 
the Colonial Office. In the laboured exhaustiveness of his argu- 
ment Johnston was once compared by Bourinot to Edward Blake : 4 
no more formidable briefs were ever drawn for the old order in 
Nova Scotia. The province was but c a small colony', its population 
scarcely more than 250,000, and its revenue only ^80,000. The 
property qualification for the Assembly was only forty shillings 
freehold. A majority of the officers of government were not 
Executive Councillors, while a majority of the council held no 
office of trust in the government. There was 'no class born to 
fortune and leisure' for the exacting duties of public life. There 
was no departmental system, and the 'extravagant comparisons' 
with British usage had grown by 'vanity and self-interest', until 

1 Harvey to Howe, Dec. 3, 1846. Howe Papers, i. 186. 

a Howe to Kent, Nov. 28, 1846; to Harvey, Dec. 7, 1846. Id., vi. 96, 100. 

3 Elgin had an additional motive, however: 'to show the French that I do not 
distrust them*. Elgin to Grey, Apr. 26, 1847, 'Secret'. Grey-Elgin Correspon- 

4 Builders of Nova Scotia, p. 77. 


* unrestrained and unsound analogies' were 'calculated to give an 
air of burlesque and caricature' to the contest. Such were the 
results of 'a debasing agitation, calculated only to disturb the 
peace and retard the welfare of the country'. The entire council 
begged an * authoritative declaration' from the Colonial Office. 1 

It was in reply to this request that the second of Grey's famous 
dispatches was written on March 31, 1847.* Thus at last was the 
reactionary gambit of * coalition' graciously but firmly checkmated 
Harvey's 'Private and Confidential' dispatch of September 15 by 
Grey's of November 3, and the classic memoranda of January 28 
and 30, 1847, by that of March 31. All parties now agreed that 

* further controversy was a waste of time'. The issue, as Grey now 
stated and as Buller had always maintained, now lay with 'the 
people themselves*. 


'The great election 1 of August 5, 1847, was followed with inter- 
est from Canada West to Bermuda. 'The effect will thrill through 
all British America', wrote a Reformer from New Brunswick. 
'If Nova Scotia strikes the first blow I do believe that the next 
election in Canada will follow suit and it must have some effect here.' 3 

Harvey was now reconciled to the inevitable ; but the skill of his 
advisers in the technique of elections was perhaps unexcelled at 
that time in British America. 'Close ranks, discipline and chain 
mail' were all in evidence, and behind them the shrewdest, coldest 
intellect in the province. The dispatch of March 31 remained un- 
known until six months after the election. 4 The Reformers 
charged their opponents with every resource of early- Victorian 
'electioneering' a fund in the bank, a schooner with liquid 
freight for the seaboard, placards and handbills without number, 
'an organization and lavish expenditure never equalled in any 
former contest'. But compared with Sydenham's campaign in 
Terrebonne or with the by-election of April, 1844, in Montreal 
'the great election' of August 5, 1847, was maintained by both 
parties upon a high level of public spirit. For the first time in 
British America the vote was polled in a single day a Tory reform 
sponsored by Johnston himself. It was Howe's boast that the day 

1 Brit. Par. Papers, Aug. 10, 1848 (621), 16 ff., 18 ff. 
- Id., 29 ff. ; Egerton and Grant, 302 ff. ; Kennedy, 573 ff. 
3 Charles Fisher to Howe, June 12, 1847. Howe Papers, i. 238. 
< 'Had they beaten at the Election, we should never have seen (he Despatches 
at all.' Howe- Buller Correspondence, p. 325. 
34" H li 


was won without a blow, without a drop of bloodshed, without 
the breaking of a pane of glass. It is on record that within three 
months he canvassed twelve counties, attended fifteen public 
dinners, and addressed sixty public meetings, not without 'great 
fun, particularly when there was opposition'. Only the note of 
desperation in his letter To the Freeholders of Nova Scotia betrayed 
the odds against them. 'I have never known you wanting (he 
wrote) in the hour of trial/ 'A million of North Americans' awaited 
the outcome : 

'If you falter now; if, with the enemy before you, with the fruits of 
victory within your grasp, the highest privileges of British subjects 
to be secured or cast away by a single act, in a single day, you show 
yourselves indifferent or undisciplined, I shall cease to labour, 
because I shall cease to hope/ 1 

The Reformers carried twelve of the seventeen counties with 
a resolute majority of seven in a House of fifty-one. Charles Fisher 
of New Brunswick, who was Howe's mentor in political finesse 
and knew more of the 'game* in many of the constituencies than 
Howe himself, was well satisfied with the results. 2 'It is a glorious 
thing this election, for Nova Scotia and all the other colonies. . . . 
Canada will strike the next blow.' The cheers at Howe's home- 
coming to Musquodoboit 'could be heard for miles down the 
valley' ; but beside his own fireside and in the austere household 
of the Huntingtons at Yarmouth there was a humbler exaltation 
of spirit: 'aye, it may be conceived (added Fisher), it can't be 
written.' Secure now in the inevitableness of responsible govern- 
ment in its final form Howe was content for a month to play 'with 
the children, and read old books to my girls' ; he 'went into the 
woods and called moose with the old hunters, camping out night 
after night, listening to their stories, calming my thoughts with 
the perfect stillness of the forest and forgetting the bitterness of 
conflict*. The government clung to office for more than five 
months, 'true (Howe added ungracfously) to the instinct which 
guides the genus Tory everywhere'. The new House met on 
January 22, 1848. 

Many of Johnston's 'old guard' had fallen by the way, but the 
survivors marched out at last with colours flying. For a moment, 
at William Young's election to the Speaker's chair, the old bitter- 

1 Chisholm, op. cit., i. 645. 

5 'Full more than I thought you would likely have.' Aug. 25, 1847. Howe 
Papers, i. 253. 


ness reappeared. But on January 24 Uniacke moved, and Hunting- 
ton seconded, the historic amendment to the Address embodying 
a direct vote of want of confidence the first vote overseas, as 
Howe truly said, 'to turn out an administration and establish the 
Opposition in their places '. Thus was 'the coup de grdce consti- 
tutionally given' (January 25) by a vote of 29 to 22. The next day 
Sir John assured the House of his 'determination to give prompt 
effect to their wishes'. 'We were conscious', wrote Howe, 'of 
having achieved a Revolution without bloodshed'. On the ayth 
the old council resigned. The next day January 28, 1848 
Uniacke as premier was called upon to form the first formally 
responsible ministry overseas. 1 


The formal introduction of responsible government ran true to 
local traditions. There were still pilgrimages to Downing Street 
with 'every imaginable form of Protest, Petition and Remon- 
strance'. Sir Rupert George resigned his seat in the Executive 
Council but refused to surrender the Secretaryship of the province 
to Howe until the House, 'declaring the Office vacant . . . voted 
him an adequate pension, and gazetted him removed'. Johnston, 
too, reserved 'future claims to Professional advancement'. 2 The 
task of organizing the working departments of the government in 
a Departmental Bill, and of adjusting a fixed civil list in return for 
the surrender of crown lands and territorial revenues went rapidly 
forward. Though forced to form a ministry and carry their by- 
elections after the session began, the Reformers could soon boast 
the widest range of 'important public Bills' since the fall of the 
coalition. FYom an issue scarcely less than imperial in its scope 
and meaning, the province now turned to the prosaic work of self- 
government roads and 'the railway question', schools and crown 
lands, the fisheries and trade with the United States. Johnston 
himself lived to be premier under the new regime ; and thus the 
exaltation of spirit which had attended 'the fight for responsible 
government' faded at last into the light of common day. 

1 The first cabinet consisted of J. B. Uniacke (Premier and Attorney-General), 
W. F. DesBarres (Solicitor-General), Joseph Howe (Secretary), Herbert 
Huntington, L. O'C. Doyle, G. R. Young, Michael Tobin, Hugh Bell, and 
James McNab. 

1 Sir John Harvey 'without his knowledge' had already recommended him 
'for Judicial preferment in another Colony*. Harvey to Grey, Jan. 29, 1848. 
Letter-Books, 119. 130. 


The ultimate meaning of this * Revolution without bloodshed' 
may be left to a later study, but there were two features of it which 
were distinctive of Nova Scotia. Against the evils of the American 
'spoils system' which since the Metcalfe crisis in Canada had ob- 
sessed Grey and Buller and the best friends of the British provinces 
in Great Britain, Howe resolutely set his face. To one of his own 
patronage-mongering supporters he once wrote in this fashion : 
'If you, or anybody else, supposed, that "responsible government" 
was to mean this that the Members responsible to a single County 
were to compel those who are responsible to the whole Legislature , to 
do acts which they could justify upon no principle recognized in 
British communities ... I never so understood it, nor would I yield 
up my judgement ... to the best friends I have, or to the Representa- 
tive of any County/ 1 

With Charles Fisher, in whose cast of mind there was more per- 
haps of Martha than of Mary, Howe once discussed the thorny 
problem of patronage in a spirit obviously inspired by the incom- 
prehensible Metcalfe crisis in Canada : 

4 It is very simple . . . where a Governor is acting in good faith with 
his Council. If he or they desire to seek a ground of quarrel, this will 
answer as well as any other. . . . 

The Governor's only chance of safety would be in the general con- 
viction that the collision had been forced upon him by the intemper- 
ance or arrogance of faction and then, as Shaft esbury was shattered 
in Charles the Second's reign, or Sarah of Marlborough in that of 
Anne, an exigeante, a corrupt, or an unmannerly ministry would be 
rebuked by the good sense of the people. ... If wrong he is sure to 
be beaten, and must take back his old advisers or retire. Here is the 
check, and it is so stringent that a Governor with common sense who 
is treated with respect, will in all cases of importance ask the advice 
of his whole Council in nine cases out of ten he will take it. ... 

Here we have no difficulty nor can I imagine why there should be 
elsewhere. . . . Do not quarrel about abstract principles if in practice 
all goes well.' 2 

It is on record that during the three years and a half of the 
coalition when appointments were numbered by hundreds there 
was but one to which the governor raised the slightest objection, 
'and that was the reappointment of an old servant'. With Sir John 
Harvey the relations of the new administration deepened into 
sympathy and affection. Thus was 'the sap . . . already beginning 
to circulate through the "girdled tree" '. 

1 Howe Papers, Private Letter-Book, vol. xxxiv. * Ibid., Oct. 23, 1848. 


In another respect the Nova Scotian achievement was distinc- 
tive. Happy in its priority, it was happier still in its moderation 
and in the confidential intercourse by which the local Reformers 
and their allies in Great Britain carried forward their common 
cause. The return of this intimate little group, pre-eminent for 
insight and harmony, to power on both sides of the Atlantic in 
1846-7 was a coincidence of the first importance. In the midst of 
European revolutions of 'the 1848', when thrones were toppling 
in 'carnage and civil war', a British Queen, Howe remarked in the 
House upon the birth of the princess royal, was passing through 
no perils but those hallowed by maternal affection. 'Amid all 
these convulsions', added Buller, 'may we not think with pride 
and satisfaction on the establishment, & working of Responsible 
Government?' A fitting commentary upon this historic alliance is 
to be found in the words of those who guided it to success. 'We shall 
endeavour/ wrote Howe, 'following Sir John Harvey's example 
to cultivate, and diffuse through our society a kindlier tone of 
feeling. Of one thing you may be assured, we shall ''keep within 
the ropes" . . . Earl Grey's Despatches, clear as a sunbeam, breathe 
a spirit of generous confidence in our discretion and right feeling. 
He shall not be disappointed. It will be our pride to make Nova 
Scotia a "Normal School" for the rest of the Colonies/ 

Passing unofficially through the Colonial Office Howe's instinc- 
tive goodwill brought from Buller a characteristic response in kirid : 

'I have been seldom so much gratified by any letter. . . . The wisdom 
& moderation of your views make me confident of the success, which 
I never mistrusted, of the working of Responsible Government. . . . 
This private exposition . . . will have the best effects on the Colonial 


When "advice" is needed, it shall be frankly given, & I am sure will 
be kindly taken. But it would be impertinence to offer any to those, 
who are acting so wisely : and I think I may give what is more useful 
than any counsels namely an assurance of the confidence & kindli- 
ness with which your own generous policy is met here.' 1 

Relations with the Colonial Office were not always to remain at 
this high level. A series of mishaps, from 'the railway imbroglio' 
with Grey himself in 1852 to the Reciprocity negotiations and 
Confederation itself, coarsened the fibre of provincial politics and 
of Howe's own public life. Neither Buller nor Huntington lived 
to see this anti-climax. With Buller's lamented death in Novem- 

1 Howe-Buller Correspondence, passim. 


her, 1848, this essay may appropriately close. The theme with 
which it deals is aptly epitomized in the noble tribute paid by 
Howe in The Novascotian of December 25, 1848, to the memory 
of his friend : 

'If the question had been asked a month ago, of the North American 
colonies, what English statesman they could least afford to spare, the 
almost unanimous answer of the best-informed men in the five 
Provinces would have been Charles Buller. The last steamer brings 
the melancholy tidings of his death, and the sincere sorrow on this 
side of the Atlantic is as general as was the estimation in which the 
deceased was held. 

There is something singularly sad in the death of such a man as 
Buller at the age of forty-one, in the very flower of his days, after 
the difficulties of early life had been surmounted and an honourable 
position had been attained, from which with practised and scarcely 
adventurous wing the highest elevations of imperial public life were 
fairly within his reach. 

There is something, too, depressing in the reflection that another 
has been added to the list of able and distinguished advocates of 
colonial regeneration, who have passed from the stage of usefulness to 
the tomb, within a very few years. 

Lord Durham, Lord Sydenham, Sir Charles Bagot, Charles Buller! 
With these men alive and holding high stations in England, North 
America would have had her advocates and friends, familiar with her 
wants and hopeful of her destinies, to appeal to, and to defend her 
interests, on all occasions. The grave has closed over them all, and 
we are scarcely consoled for their loss by the conviction that their 
works live after them and that the rights they advocated can never 

In the gradual evolution of general principles and in their practical 
application to the business of colonial government within the last ten 
years, Charles Buller, though inferior in rank and station to some of 
his fellow-labourers, exercised a vast and most beneficial influence. 
As secretary to Lord Durham, his talents contributed to the brilliant 
success which attended his Lordship's mission. When that great man 
was prematurely stricken down, Charles Buller in Parliament and in 
the press defended his memory and reasserted his principles. Out of 
office, he checked and restrained the party by whom Lord Durham 
was feared; in office, he gave to the present Ministry his counsel and 
his aid in perfecting that nobleman's colonial policy. 

Contrasted with some others who take an interest in colonial ques- 
tions, there was something safe, practical, and conciliatory in Buller 's 
advocacy of North American interests. Unlike Hume, he never 
frightened or misled by counselling extreme measures ; and instead of 


traversing boundless fields and generalizing like Molesworth, he 
stuck to the matter in hand and raised no difficulties, the facile re- 
moval of which was not proved to be as compatible with the dignity 
of the parent state as with the security of the distant provinces of the 

It was for this quality of his mind that we chiefly admired Buller. 
He never did violence to the antique prejudices of Parliament or 
feared to give honest counsel, when they seemed to require it, to the 
colonists themselves. There may be rising men in both Houses, of 
whom we know little; but of those we do know, there is not one, in 
the peculiar walks he chose, who can fill Charles Buller 's place/ 



THE contest for responsible government reached its climax in 
Canada. For many reasons its fate there was epochal for the whole 
Empire. Durham, in despair of a larger federal union, had recom- 
mended the fusion of the two Canadas, so that in sheer size and 
population the united province dwarfed all the others. At the close 
of Elgin's administration there were well over two millions of 
people in an area which Chief Justice Draper, a few years later, 
sought to extend to the Pacific. The issues, too, in Canada were 
beyond all comparison imperative. Whatever the Papineau and 
Mackenzie risings may have done or failed to do, they forced the 
problem of colonial government in its real proportions upon the 
best attention of the British Cabinet. A correspondent under Elgin 
once wrote that * Canada ought to be experimentum cruets of all 
Governors. After governing Canada they can govern any country V 
The Colonial Office, tenanted, as Buller satirically pointed out, by 
nearly a dozen Secretaries in as many years, now demanded first- 
rate ability. Three Colonial Secretaries within ten years eventually 
reached the premiership, and some of the men sent to Canada were 
without exception the ablest who ever left Britain on such a mission . 
On both sides of the Atlantic the effect of Durham's Report was 
dynamic second only to the cogency of the events themselves. 
The interpretations put upon it varied with the political exigencies 
of the interpreters. To the colonial Tory it was, of course, anathema, 
and the attack upon it by the Select Committee of the Upper 
Canadian Legislative Council is classic. 2 Sir George Arthur, who 
reflected their views, regarded it as 'the worst evil that has yet 
befallen Upper Canada'.^ Reformers, on the other hand, in 
Canada as in Nova Scotia, made it their gospel. Hincks, whose 
steadfast legend for the Examiner had been ' Responsible Govern- 
ment', always maintained that their programme was implicit in the 

1 Tn the Grey-Elgin Correspondence, Elgin to Grey, July 2, 1849. Pub. Arch. 

1 Egerton and Grant, pp. 173-88. 

* Arthur to Normanby, Aug. 21, 1839, Brit. Par!. Papers, 1840, Canada, Part 
II, p. 171. 


Report an opinion circumstantially confirmed by Buller's own 
letters and anonymous treatise on Responsible Government for 
Colonies, by Grey's steady advocacy during the Metcalfe crisis, 
and by Elgin's devotion to the Durham traditions as the house- 
hold-gods of his Canadian mission. 1 On both sides of the Atlantic 
the Report was appropriated instinctively by those who disputed 
the pontifical doctrine of Lord John Russell. 

But the Report was aimed not at North American opinion but 
at Melbourne and the British Whigs. By 1835 Durham had so far 
antagoni2ed his father-in-law, the second Earl Grey, by forming 
'bad connections' and by his 'folly' of advocating further reform, 
that he had been quietly read out of the Whig party by bell, book, 
and candle. Like Phaethon, 'Radical Jack' had aspired too far in 
driving the horses of the sun. He had encountered too the implac- 
able and half-contemptuous distrust of Melbourne and Lord John 
Russell, the less calculating dislike of Poulett Thomson, and the 
malignant hatred of Brougham. 2 By his indiscretions and 'abun- 
dance of political courage . . . approaching to rashness' (as Hob- 
house, his best friend in Melbourne's cabinet, set down in his diary) 

1 Hincks, Lecture on the Political History of Canada* between 1840 and J<$55, 
Montreal, 1877, p. 9. Durham's attempt to delimit the scope of responsible 
government gave way to the empirical opportunism advocated by Elgin (see 
below, p. 318, and Chap. VI) but there is much to be said for the view that in 
method, Durham contemplated, as he himself wrote, 'administering the govern- 
ment on those principles which have been found perfectly efficacious in Great 

2 Grey to Melbourne, Feb. 3, 1835, Lord Melbourne's Papers, ed. Sanders, 
Lond., 1889, p. 247. Cf. id., p. 252, Lord Holland to Melbourne, Feb. 1 1, 1835 : 
' I see no use in Johnny (Lord John Russell) showing Grey's letter to Wellesley ; 
there are expressions in it about Durham he would not like to be repeated.' 
See also Melbourne to Grey, 'Confidential', Jan. 23, 1835: 'I will have nothing 
to do with Durham.' Melbourne to Russell: 'It is very odd to me the terror 
Durham inspires.' 'Durham has so run at me in those letters of his, and I dislike 
him so much, that there is no course would please me so well as setting him at 
defiance ; but .. .it would be said, "This was your intention from the beginning".' 
Melbourne to Thomson: 'You may call this submission to his insolence; but 
it is not much submission when you in fact say, "You have put yourself in a 
foolish passion and acted rashly; do think better of it".' Id., pp. 235, 434, 435, 
436, &c. See also Broughton's Recollections of a Long Life, v. 118, 161, 291, et 
passim: 'I found that our chief entertained a very unfavourable opinion of 
Durham ; in fact he talked of him as a man on whom no dependence could be 
placed.' 'I did my best to give him (Durham) a more kindly feeling towards 
Melbourne and Russell ; but he shook his head/ See also id., v. 291 (at Durham's 
death in August, 1 840) : ' In his intercourse with his friends, he was by no means 
overbearing. ... In fact, he did not attach so much value to his character, or 
opinions, as to give himself a sufficient amount of self-confidence in matters of 


he had courted destruction in the toils of a relentless oligarchy. 
But his memory was yet to have its revenge upon them all. 
They themselves were now in the toils. As the meshes tightened, 
resistance became increasingly desperate. Stanley and the Tories, 
as we shall see, despaired of the Empire. The Whigs aspired to 
resignation, if not to hopefulness. But astheDurhamites well knew, 
the net could not be broken. 'Though such jays as Pou & Jonny 
(Poulett Thomson and Lord John Russell) may strut about with 
one or two of your feathers in their heads', wrote Buller in his last 

letter to Durham, 'all the world recognize the plumage as yours 

The ministers have pretended to differ from you. But what has 
their whole conduct been but a gradual though unwilling conces- 
sion to your principles ?' To Lady Mary Lambton a few days after 
Durham's death Buller added a prophecy of singular insight and 
conviction : 'If there is anything certain in the course of events, it 
is that the great principles, with which he has linked his name, will 
henceforth amid all the chances of party politics, & passing events, 
make good their sure & steady way'. 1 'Whatever decision he 
might come to', Buller remarked again, on Russell's policy for 
Canada, 'I do not practically care a pin about it. ... Responsible 
government will inevitably be established by the people them- 
selves.' The contest in Canada is thus the story of the coercion of 
Lord John Russell's pontifical Whig logic for Russell and 
Stanley, at the crisis, were in close personal agreement by the 
still less fallible logic of events, until the whole position was con- 
ceded by the third Earl Grey in 1846. Between the administration 
of Lord John Russell as Colonial Secretary in 1839 and his 
premiership in 1846 lies the watershed between the second Empire 
and the Commonwealth. 


Lord John Russell's theory has already been outlined in con- 
nexion with Nova Scotia where it was first brought to the test of 
practice. In the debate of June, 1839, he reaffirmed without 
qualification the resolution of 1837 that 'while it is expedient to 
improve the composition of the Executive Council ... it is unadvis- 
able to subject it to that responsibility demanded by the House of 
Assembly'. To Poulett Thomson his colleague, his disciple, and 
eventually, as Lord Sydenham, the most adroit and resourceful 

1 Durham Papers t vol. xxvi, pp. 489, 501. Pub. Arch. Can. 


champion his doctrine ever had in Canada he wrote in terms 
which by all the canons of the old Empire were unanswerable : 
'Can the colonial council be the advisers of the Crown of England? 
Evidently not, for the Crown has other advisers, for the same func- 
tions, and with superior authority. 

It may happen, therefore, that the Governor receives at one and the 
same time instructions from the Queen, and advice from his executive 
council, totally at variance with each other. If he is to obey his in- 
structions from England, the parallel of constitutional responsibility 
entirely fails; if on the other hand, he is to follow the advice of his 
council, he is no longer a subordinate officer, but an independent 
sovereign.' 1 

Thomson himself, whose veneration for Lord John Russell 
approached hero-worship, 2 refined still more confidently upon his 
chief's invulnerable logic: 

4 1 am not a bit afraid of the responsible government cry. I have 
already done much to put it down in its inadmissible sense; namely 
the demand that the council shall be responsible to the assembly, and 
that the governor shall take their advice, and be bound by it. ... I 
have told the people plainly that, as I cannot get rid of my responsi- 
bility to the home government, I will place no responsibility on the 
council; that they are a council for the governor to consult, but no 
more. . . . There is no other theory which has common sense. Either 
the governor is the sovereign or the minister. If the first, he may 
have ministers, but he cannot be responsible to the governmen^ at 
home, and all colonial government becomes impossible. He must 
therefore be the minister, in which case he cannot be under the con- 
trol of men in the colony/ 3 

Sydenham's genius for administration and Lord John Russell's 
'wise moderation' the hall-mark of that remarkable man saved 
this sterile logic for a time from disaster, and resulted, as Grey 
afterwards wrote, in 'the first attempt to give something like shape 
and consistency to these vague ideas'. 4 After all, Russell's caution, 
if not indeed his theory, was dictated by hard facts. What advice 
would be given to a governor by a 'ministry headed by M. 

1 Oct. 14, 1839, Egerton and Grant, p. 267. 

* Scrope, Memoir of the Life of the Right Honourable Charles Lord Sydenham, 
Lond., 1843, p. iv: 'He exerted the last energies of his failing voice deliberately 
and emphatically to pronounce you "the noblest man he had ever the good for- 
tune to know".' (Dedication to Lord John Russell.) 

5 Dec. 12, 1839, id., p. 143. 

4 The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration, Lond., 1853, i. 
202. Cf., however, Adderley's Review of ' The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's 
Administration' and of subsequent Colonial History, Lond., 1869, pp. 24, 25. 


Papineau'? Who could 'take upon himself to say that such cases 
will not again occur' ? 'To recall the power thus conceded would 
be impossible/ 1 

There were other complications, however, which the Melbourne 
Whigs could adjust, as it seemed, to their own advantage. Long 
before Russell took over the Colonial Office it had been determined 
to unite the two provinces. 2 None saw more clearly than Thomson 
the ascendancy this would give to the governor-general. 'It will 
take time*, he wrote to Melbourne in describing the chaos 
which prevailed in Canada upon his arrival, 'to remedy all this, 
but the Union will afford the opportunity, because the whole 
system . . . must then be broken up and remodelled ; and if for 
no other purpose than that the Union would be most desirable. . . . 
I am satisfied that if we fail in carrying it you may as well give up 
the Canadas at once, for I know no other means of governing 
either. '3 Thus the cards were to be reshuffled and, as many at 
first thought, the governor-general was to call the trumps. But 
Hincks and Baldwin, as we shall see, calculated the reshuffling of 
the cards to better purpose, and the game they were to play was 
peculiarly their own. Instead of * swamping the French' and estab- 
lishing the governor-general as a sort of ' patriot King' in the 
Canadas with 'still a fair chance', as Thomson hoped, 'of keeping 
them for a considerable time', the Union was destined to force 
responsible government in its final form and thus to make the 
institutions even of Lower Canada not only British as they had 
never been before, but British irrevocably. It was in the fertile 
brain of Francis Hincks, the first liaison officer between the Bald- 
win reformers of Upper Canada and the Lower Canadian French, 
that this shrewd counter-strategy originated. The bond of the 
alliance was the incorruptible character of Robert Baldwin. It was 
the strategy of these two which won La Fontaine to the Union and 
directed the shock-troops of a solid French bloc to the storming of 
the last stronghold of the old Empire. In the hour of his triumph 
Baldwin represented the French constituency of Rimouski where 

1 Russell to Thomson, Oct. 14, 1838, Egerton and Grant, p. 268. 

2 'It is laid down by all as a fundamental principle that the French must not 
be reinstated in power in Lower Canada.' 4 We are about to make a legislative 
union of the two provinces.' Melbourne to Russell, Dec. 23, 1838; Apr. 2, 
1839. Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 444. 

3 Thomson to Melbourne, Dec. 12, 1839, id., p. 446. Melbourne's reply 
through Russell was characteristic : 'For God's sake tell him not to feel that, but 
to make the next best arrangement. If he suffers all "to be up" in his hands, 
all will be up with him and with those who sent him too.' Ibid. 


La Fontaine once assured him 'I speak the truth when I say 
that no one, nor Morin, nor myself, nor even Papineau himself, 
could be returned in opposition to you'. 1 It is a curious paradox 
that few contributed more to set these forces in motion than 
Poulett Thomson and Lord John Russell themselves. 

It will be the aim of this essay to trace this train of policy through 
to conclusions which transformed the second Empire. 



The mobility which the Russell- Sydenham regime imparted for 
the first time to colonial government may be illustrated by a rough 
metaphor from the chief Canadian industry of that day. When 
a 'jam 5 of logs blocks a Canadian stream in the spring 'drive* to 
the mills there is said to be a 'key-log* which holds the mass of 
timber in position against the current. With the location and re- 
moval of the key-log by the expert 'stream- driver', the whole mass 
thunders into motion and moves irresistibly with the stream. 
Lord John Russell's dispatch of October 16, 1839, may be said to 
have loosed the key-log of the old system and set in motion for the 
first time the elemental forces of representative government forces 
which Sydenham had every confidence he could harness and control. 
Hitherto the Executive Council, though appointed nominally 
'during pleasure', was as immobile as a Canadian 'lumber-jam'. 
'I cannot learn', wrote Lord John Russell, 'that during the present 
or the two last reigns, a single instance has occurred of a change 
in the subordinate colonial officers, except in cases of death or 
resignation, incapacity or misconduct.' Thus tenure at pleasure 
had become tenure for life. Thomson was instructed: 

'to understand and . . . cause it to be made generally known, that here- 
after the tenure of colonial offices held during Her Majesty's pleasure, 
will not be regarded as equivalent to a tenure during good behaviour ; 
but that not only will such officers be called upon to retire from the 
public service as often as any sufficient motives of public policy may 
suggest the expediency of that measure, but that a change in the 
person of the governor will be considered as a sufficient reason for 
any alterations which his successor may deem it expedient to make.' 2 
The immediate purpose of this famous dispatch was not, as we 
have seen, that which the Reformers read into it. Sir John Harvey 

1 Nov. 12, 1844, Baldwin Papers (copies in the Pub. Arch. Can.), i. 92. 
- Egerton and Grant, pp. 270, 271. 


in New Brunswick had referred to it as 'conferring a new, and in 
my judgement, an improved constitution upon these Colonies'; 
and Howe claimed truly that 'it bestowed all that was required' 
to effect responsible government if such were the intentions of 
the governor and of the British Government. The governor could 
now adjust the Executive Council to 'the well-understood wishes 
and interests of the people', and the philosophy of responsible 
government lies in the principle that by so doing the governor, like 
the Crown in Great Britain, would best consult British interests 
and his own. But he could also now adjust the Executive Council 
more directly to the 'wishes and interests of the people' as in- 
terpreted not by their representatives but by himself. This, as 
Sir Colin Campbell had demonstrated, might conceivably be a 
vastly different thing ; and this, as we have seen, was the immediate 
purpose of the dispatch of October 16, 1839. * ^ was to a dd * ^ e 
powers not of the Assembly but of the governor 'by leaving him 
free to choose his Counsellors'. It was to break the system which 
Howe had just pilloried in his second letter to Lord John Russell 
the mortmain which Executive Councillors acting for life had 
almost invariably established over the administration. 2 It was to 
enable the governor to enforce the responsibility of his ministers 
not to the Assembly but to himself, to ensure the smooth and 
harmonious administration not of their policy but of his own, and 
to provide him upon the floors of the Assembly with a group of 
trained and subservient officials, sponsors for the governor's policy 
and eminently fitted to make it prevail. 

This last refinement was Thomson's own peculiar contribution 
to the Russell regime. 'We do not derive from our officers', he 
wrote, 'that aid in the management of public affairs in the legisla- 
ture which is absolutely indispensable', for it was one of the first 
duties of government to 'propose and submit to the legislature, 
with the full weight of its authority, whatever measures may appear 
to be called for for the good of the province, and the very considera- 
tion of which would divert men's minds from the agitation of ab- 
stract points of government.' Thomson proposed, therefore, to 

1 In writing to Russell himself Sir Colin had interpreted the dispatch as 
'intended . . . merely to strengthen the hands of the Governor by enabling him 
more effectually to control refractory Public functionaries', Mar. i, 1840. 
Governor's Letter-Books^ Halifax. Cf. the memorandum of Vernon Smith of 
the Colonial Office upon Campbell's letter of April 4, 1840: 'he is right in his 
interpretation of Lord John's letter.' C.O. 217, vol. 174. See above, pp. 187 f. 

1 Sept. 18, 1839, Egerton and Grant, pp. 209 et seq. 


utilize for that purpose 'the most influential members of either 
House but especially those of the House of Assembly'; and 
secondly to stipulate that his ministers 'whom it may be desirable 
to make use of in that way, should be required, when necessary, 
to become members of the Assembly ... in order to afford their 
assistance there'. Government was thus to 'acquire the necessary 
strength in the Legislature ; and if the proper direction be given 
to their labours, and due firmness evinced in controlling them, 
the Council will prove a very useful and powerful engine in the 
hands of the Governor'. The regulation of October 1 6 would thus 
'be of service' in explaining to those who had 'heedlessly adopted 
the cry of "Responsible Government", the extent to which Her 
Majesty's Government wish to go in administering affairs here 
according to the wishes of the People, and thro' persons having 
their confidence, at the same time that they reject a principle 
incompatible with Colonial Government'. In effect the governor's 
ministers were 'placemen', and Thomson did not hesitate to call 
them so and to use unsparingly his power over them. 1 

It has been necessary here, as Thomson himself once wrote, to 
'recapitulate the principle' of his administration, for the astonish- 
ing fact is not only that he believed it feasible but that he put it into 
practice with almost magical success. The reason, as we shall see, 
belonged to that day and place. No environment was ever more 
favourable than Canada afterthe Union. No other system perhaps 
could have worked in Canada at that time, and no other man then 
living perhaps could have achieved what Thomson achieved for 
this country. Perhaps no man in Canada ever achieved so much 
of permanent good with such incredible speed. But his 'principle' 
of government was not of this order, for the wind blew upon that 
house and it fell. 'When I read Lord Sydenham's despatches', 
wrote Elgin in 1847, 'I never cease to marvel what study of human 
nature or of history led him to the conclusion that it would be 
possible to concede to a pushing enterprising people . . . such 
Constitutional privileges . . . and yet to limit in practice their power 
of self Government as he proposed.' 2 

1 Scrope, op. cit., pp. 183-5. Thomson to Russell, Dec. 6, 1839, G. Series, 
387. 1 6. In the Upper Canadian debates on the Union in December, 1839, 
Thomson permitted his supporters 'the freest expression of opinion . . . whether 
placemen or not*, and both the law officers on one occasion voted 'against the 
wishes of the Government'; but, he added, '1 should not for one instant have 
tolerated it under any common circumstances.* G. Series t 387* 2 7- 

2 Elgin to Grey, Apr. 26, 1847, 'Secret'. Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 



Measured by standards of British public life Charles Poulett 
Thomson Lord Sydenham as he will always be known was per- 
haps the most distinguished statesman who ever came to Canada. 
He had sat in Parliament for fifteen years. For ten he represented 
Manchester, the centre of the most advanced economic thought in 
Great Britain. For five he was a member of Melbourne's cabinet 
as President of the Board of Trade at a time when economic issues 
were of prime importance. At the end of that period Melbourne 
rated him the ablest man in the government in public finance. 
In 1839 nc declined the Chancellorship of the Exchequer in order 
to become Governor-General of British North America, while 
Lord John Russell 'beyond all comparison (thought Sydney 
Smith) the ablest man in the whole administration' took over the 
Colonial Office. The brilliancy of Sydenham's success in Canada 
won him his peerage and the Order of the Bath. All this he 
achieved without the aid of rank or fortune before he was forty 
years of age. At his death he was barely forty-one. 1 

When Thomson came to Canada his eccentricities were perhaps 
better known than his abilities. A writer of memoirs once 
flippantly called him 'the greatest coxcomb I ever saw, and the 
vainest dog, though his vanity is not offensive or arrogant'. 2 In 
truth the frail physique and the countenance, singularly delicate 
and expressive, which looks out of Reynolds's portrait of him, 
accord but strangely with the daemonic energy which devoured 
the closing years of his life. His exuberant opportunism, his 
mercurial tact and versatility, his engaging address, his almost 
incredible powers of winning individuals to his service, became so 
notorious in Canada that he may be said to have founded a school. 
Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the first names 
in Canadian politics, were both his disciples. As Sydney Smith 
once said of Canning, he could 'leap about, touch facts with his 
wand and turn yes into no'. He had also an exuberant infallibility 
all his own. He may have made mistakes, but they were not self- 
confessed. He may have had his failures and had he remained 
another session in Canada one failure at least would almost 
certainly have been catastrophic but there is no hint of these in 

1 Shortt, Lord Sydenham, Makers of Canada Series, xv. 55 ff. ; Scrope, op. 
cit., passim. 

2 Charles Greville, quoted in Morison,, British Supremacy and Canadian 
Self-Government^ 18^-1.8^4^ p. 77. 


his official dispatches. Melbourne once referred to one of Thom- 
son's private letters as 'desponding'. 1 We should like to see that 

Thomson came to Canada with a schedule of herculean labours, 
and he completed them on scheduled time the Union to be 
carried through both provinces, the whole fiscal and economic life 
of the country to be revived, the government of the united province 
to be rescued from factions and committed to sound administra- 
tion. The confusion which he found upon his arrival in October, 
1839, was beyond description ; but while it distracted the country 
it simplified not a little his own policy. For Lower Canada, he 
wrote, 'the best thing . . .would be a despotism for ten years more'; 
since the constitution there was already suspended, the 'despotism' 
enabled him to dictate by sheer authority a body of legislation 
which he believed 'the United Legislature, when it came, could 
not destroy', and which he afterwards assured Lord John Russell 
'would have taken ten years of an Assembly'. Within two days he 
procured from his predecessor's Special Council, which he con- 
tinued without alteration, a resolution in favour of the Union 'in 
terms so forcible 5 , he reported, 'as to leave me nothing to say'. 
'So far, therefore, as the Lower Province is concerned, I look upon 
the Union as settled.' But the prospects as he described them in 
the following March were not so promising for self-government. 
There was 'no such thing as a political opinion. No man looks Jo a 
practical measure of improvement . . . you might as well talk Greek 
to him. . . . The hand of the Government is utterly unknown 
and unfelt at present out of Montreal and Quebec, and not the 
slightest means exist of knowing what is passing in the rural dis- 
tricts.' More was passing there, as we shall see, than Thomson 
could have surmised; and to have imagined that the Union was 
to be 'settled' for Lower Canada by a summary despotism, or that 
the decision of the Special Council gave 'the greatest satisfaction 
to the Province generally', was one of Thomson's costliest mis- 
calculations. There were some things, in Melbourne's sardonic 
phrase, which would 'not do in these days'. 2 

Thomson's classic descriptions of Upper Canada, less than three 
weeks after his arrival at Toronto and five days after the opening 
3f the legislature, may also require modification, for the exuber- 

1 Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 446. 

2 Scrope, op. cit., pp. 149, 250. Egerton and Grant, p. 272; Scrope, op. cit., 
:>. 148. Id., pp. 175 f. Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 444. 

341* K k 


ance of his private letters was sometimes second nature. In Upper 
Canada there was still an Assembly ; success here, even with Head's 
'loyal' majority, would be *a more difficult matter': 

'Then the Assembly is such a House ! Split into half a dozen different 
parties. The Government having none and no one man to depend 
on ! Think of a House in which half the members hold places, yet 
in which the Government does not command a single vote . . . where 
there is no one to defend the Government when attacked, or to state 
the opinion or views of the Governor ! . . . I am now more than ever 
satisfied that the Union affords the only chance of putting an end 
to the factions that distract the country; the only means of recruiting 
its finances by persuading Great Britain to help the Upper Canada 
Exchequer ; the only means by which the present abominable system 
of government can be broken up, and a strong and powerful adminis- 
tration, both departmental and executive, be formed. And unless 
the people will assent to the general outline of it, and Parliament will 
then carry the details, upon which they would never agree, with a 
high hand, the province is lost. From all that I can hear or see, I 
would not give a year's purchase for our hold of it, if some great stroke 
is not given which shall turn men's thoughts from the channel in 
which they now run. . . . 

It is indeed a pity to see this province in such a state. It is the finest 
country I ever knew. . . . The climate, the soil, the water-power, and 
facilities of transport, finer than anything in North America. . . . 

I am sure it is the last and only chance . . . the state of things admits 
of no delays and no half measures.' l 

With this conviction Thomson plunged at once into the task of 
carrying the Union through the Upper Canadian legislature. His 
message to the House stipulated equal representation for the two 
provinces, a permanent civil list, the amount to be settled by the 
Imperial Parliament, and the funding of the enormous Upper 
Canadian debt with that of the lower province. How the measure 
was carried through the council by a vote of 14 to 8, and through 
the Assembly after nearly a fortnight of bitter debate, Thomson 
describes in a series of private letters and two confidential dis- 
patches to Russell in time for the opening of the British Parliament. 
'I have done my business', he wrote. 'The Union is carried 

1 Scrope, op. cit.> pp. 150, 151. Elsewhere Thomson's verdict was less dis- 
paraging : ' I owe my success altogether to the confidence which the reform party 
have reposed in me personally, and to the generous manner in which they have 
acted by me. A dissolution would have been greatly to their advantage. . . . But 
they gave up all these considerations . . . and went gallantly through with me to 
the end.* Id. t pp. 161 f. 


triumphantly ... it now only remains for Parliament to do its duty, 
and pass the bill which I shall send home. It has not been without 
trouble, and a prodigious deal of management, in which my House 

of Commons' tactics stood me in good stead My ministers vote 

against me. So I govern through the opposition, who are truly 
"Her Majesty V'.' 1 

Not content with the Union, Thomson drove through a settle- 
ment of the Clergy Reserves 'the root of all the troubles of the 
province, the cause of the rebellion the never-failing watch- 
word at the hustings the perpetual source of discord, strife, and 
hatred.' Thomson's Bill passed the council 'without the change 
of a word', and the Assembly by 30 to 20. 'Ten members', 
he adds significantly, 'voted generously for me this time, though 
they may lose their seats by it.' The Act was torn to pieces 
by the House of Lords, and Bishop Strachan went farther and 
fared worse in 1854, ^ ut Thomson's exultation was pardonable. 
'It is the greatest work that ever has been done in this country, and 
will be of more solid advantage to it than all the loans and all the 
troops you can make or send. It is worth ten Unions, and was ten 
times more difficult.' Thomson's official dispatch was still jubi- 
lant, but Elgin's comment upon it ten years later was less enthusi- 
astic: 'He clearly admits that the Act is against the sense of the 
country and that nothing but his own great personal influence got 
it through and yet he looks upon it as a settlement of the ques- 
tion. I confess I see few of the conditions of finality in measures 
which are passed under such circumstances. ' z 


The work of Sydenham he was immediately raised to the peer- 
age under that name was pre-eminently administrative. It is im- 
possible here to trace the multitude of his activities in this field 
or the desperate economic and social conditions he laboured to 
improve. Both are to be found in a final form for Canadian history 
in the pages of Dr. Shortt and of Professor Morison. Sydenham 

1 G. Series, 387. 27 f . ; Scrope, op. cit., p. 163. 

J Id. y pp. 168 f . : 'He, therefore, entered into personal communication with 
the leading individuals among the principal religious denominations, and after 
many interviews succeeded in obtaining their support to a measure for the dis- 
tribution of the reserves among the religious communities recognized by law, 
in proportion to their respective numbers.* Murdock in Scrope, op. cit., p. 167. 
Id., p. 169. Thomson to Russell, Jan. 22, 1840, G. Series, 387. 72-82 ; Elgin to 
Grey, July 15, 1850, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 


found the upper province 'overwhelmed by debt* contracted by 
the old Executive Council 'without the slightest effort on the part 
of the Government to warn the Assembly'. 'The finances', he 
wrote, 'are more deranged than we believed even in England. The 
deficit 75,ooo/. a year, more than equal to the income. All public 
works suspended. Emigration going on fast from the province. 
Every man's property worth only about half what it was.' The 
public credit was unequal to the completion of the Welland and 
Cornwall canals. The Lachine Canal, too, had yet to be built. 
Sydenham describes his own first journey to Toronto : * A, portage 
to La Chine; then the steamboat to the Cascades, twenty- four 
miles further ; then road again (if road it can be called) for six- 
teen miles ; then steam to Pr escort, forty miles ; then road twelve 
miles ; then, by a change of steamers, into Lake Ontario to Kings- 
ton, and thence here. I slept one night on the road, and two on 
board the steamers. Such as I have described it is the boasted 
navigation of the St. Lawrence!' In his first venture above Lake 
Ontario, his boat 'the filthiest and vilest concern which ever 
floated on water' was nearly swamped on the lakes. Finally in 
the Thames 'away went the rudder and tiller, both as rotten as 
touchwood'. Fortunately Sydenham was a good horseman, and 
on land 'made it out admirably'. Such was travel in viceregal 
luxury in 1840. But even the grim reports of Dr. Douglas, the 
quarantine officer at Grosse Isle, fail to depict the horrors of the 
fever-riddled immigrant-ships on the Atlantic or the desperate 
'struggle with the wilderness' that went on in the backwoods of 
Canada. 1 

With Sydenham 's genius for practical administration and a pro- 
spective British loan of 1,500,000 at his disposal to restore the 
credit of the province and complete the public works, much could 
be done to divert 'agitation upon theoretical points of government' 
to what Sydenham calls 'the real interests' of the province. 
Immigration by the St. Lawrence in 1839 na d numbered 7,439. 
In three years it increased to 22,006, 28,000 and 44,000.* But his 
greatest reforms were in the administration of government. A sys- 
tem of municipal local government to absorb mediocre political 
ambitions, to test and train men of real ability for provincial 

1 Thomson to Russell, Dec. 15, 1839, 'Confidential', G. Series, 387. 28; 
Scrope, op. cit. t pp. 149, 141, 198 ; Douglas on immigration, G. Series^ 390.71-80, 

a For Sydenham's able papers on lands and immigration see particularly 
G. Series, 387. 217; 389. 56, 1 12, &c. ; Scrope, op. cit., pp. 207 et seq. 


politics, and to free the Assembly from the incessant jobbing that 
accompanied appropriations for 'every petty local job* in the pro- 
vince, had been an integral part of Sydenham's programme 'as 
much a part of the intended scheme ... as the union of the two 
Legislatures, and the more important of the two'. When Lord 
John Russell omitted it from the final Act of Union, Sydenham's 
vexation was boundless, 1 but he forced it through the Special 
Council of Lower Canada 'off my own anvil' and though the 
French sullenly refused to work it he used its establishment there 
to force it through the legislature for the rest of the province after 
the Union.* 

Sydenham's description of the 'confusion and riot' of money- 
bills in the Assembly is classic. 'Every man proposes a vote for 
his own job; and bills are introduced without notice, and carried 
through all their stages in a quarter of an hour!' For the first time 
Sy den ham 'got them into comparative order and decency by 
having measures brought forward by the Government, and well 
and steadily worked through*. By the Act of Union the initiation 
of money-bills was to be restricted to the executive: 'without the 
last', he wrote, 'I would not give a farthing for my bill.' For the 
first time it was possible to ask and to answer in the Assembly the 
question which was a commonplace of British politics: 'What 
course does the Government propose to pursue?' 3 Above all, 
Sydenham evolved the departments of the executive with an un- 
failing eye to results and to discipline. Thus in finance his eye fell 
upon Francis Hincks, the ablest financier of that generation in 
Canada and at one time perhaps the most implacable of his oppo- 
nents. 4 Reforms like these, as Dr. Shortt truly says, were 'the very 
essence of responsible government in practice'. Without them it 
can scarcely be doubted that responsible government itself would 

1 Id., p. 202; Egerton and Grant, p. 280. Sydenham's annoyance was the 
greater because he regarded it as a sort of innoculation against responsible 
government : the want of it had accounted for 'the readiness with which a demand 
for organic changes in the constitution has been received by the people*. Ibid. 

2 'There could not have been the slightest chance ... if it had not been al- 
ready enacted for Lower Canada.' Sydenham to Russell, Aug. 28, 1841 ; Scrope, 
op. cit., p. 252. 

3 Id., p. 172. G. Series, 387. 28. 

4 See the interchange of letters between Hincks and Baldwin in the La Fon- 
taine Papers, i. 96, and below, p. 269. *A week before Lord Sydenham's death, 
in the last interview I had with him he propounded Mr. Hincks's appointment 
to me.' Draper to Bagot, June 9, 1842, Bagot Papers, vol. ii. Murdock calls 
Hincks 'at one time Lord Sydenham's most uncompromising and ablest 
opponent/ Scrope, op. cit., p. 267. 


have courted discredit and disaster. Sydenham may not have been 
the first able governor but he was in effect the first premier in 
Canadian history. He may not have believed in Baldwin's or 
Howe's or Hincks's conception of responsible government, but he 
made it for the first time thoroughly feasible. In another sense he 
made it inevitable, for he taught the Reformers for the first time 
what good government was and thus prepared them for the 
Eleusinian mysteries of self-government. 


There was another side, it must be added, to Sydenham 's ad- 
ministration. He had presided at the Board of Trade during that 
period of railway expansion when, as Elgin once observed, 'it is to 
be feared that, notwithstanding the high standard of honor in the 
British Parliament there was a good deal of jobbing'. 1 Sydenham's 
forays into 'practical polities' in Canada became a byword. In 
a sense his whole theory of colonial government forced him into it, 
for he was determined not only to avoid 'the great mistake' of all 
his predecessors who threw themselves 'into the hands of one party 
or the other, and became their slave', but to 'let them know and 
feel that I will yield to neither of them that I will take the mode- 
rate from both sides reject the extremes and govern as I think 
right, and not as they fancy'. 2 This, as Addeiiey remarks, was 
perilously near Strafford's advice to King Charles, that 'a well- 
governed Parliament was the best instrument for managing a 
people'. 3 But the Baconian conception of parliamentary govern- 
ance, while it might succeed for a time under a Strafford or a 
'patriot King' like George III, was sure to encounter difficulties 
in Canada. After Sydenham's tour in Nova Scotia where, despite 
his exuberant self-confidence, his system, as we have seen, had the 
narrowest of its escapes, he travelled through Upper Canada with 
'escorts of two or three hundred farmers on horseback at every 
place from township to township, with all the etceteras of guns, 
music, and flags. What is of more importance (he adds signifi- 
cantly), my candidates everywhere taken for the ensuing elections'. 4 
In Lower Canada, where hatred of Union was at first almost in- 

1 Elgin to Grey, Nov. i, 1850, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 
* Scrope, op. cit., pp. 171 f. 

3 Review of 'The Colonial Policy of Lord J. Russell's Administration', by Earl 
Grey, and of Subsequent Colonial History, Rt. Hon. Sir C. B. Adderley, Lond., 
1869, p. 28. 

4 Scrope, op. cit., p. 199. 


stinctive, more summary methods were employed. La Fontaine 
who had declined to join the administration never forgave and 
Canadian politics for many a day never forgot the means em- 
ployed to defeat him in Terrebonne. Even Murdock, Sydenham 's 
secretary, who contributes the Canadian section of Scrope's 
Memoir of Sydenham, can scarcely palliate the gerrymandering of 
Montreal. Bagot afterwards wrote bluntly of Sydenham 's 'promise 
of the Loan and the bribe of the public Works'; and in truth 
Sydenham left behind him in Canada a legacy of * places' and 
promises for no fewer than three of his successors to liquidate. 
One of his proteges was offered an accommodation in the West 
Indies. Another sought his reward from Bagot for 'services . . . 
in the way of elections in Lower Canada'. 1 The claims of a third 
found their way under Elgin to a full-dress debate in the House 
of Lords. In the famous by-election of April, 1844, in Montreal 
where 'bludgeon-men' from the Lachine Canal played a prominent 
part, the Reformers, to Metcalfe's chagrin, boasted of being 'apt 
scholars' of Lord Sydenham.* But it was Sydenham's 'business' 
to carry the Union, and he was 'resolved on doing the thing'. 
'Small thanks', exclaims Carlyle, 'to the man who will keep his 
hands clean but with gloves on.' 

Howe conceded in The Novascotian that 'there was, in fact, no 
alternative but to secure his majority, or throw aside all that had 
been done'. A fortnight before the elections Sydenham reported 
that he was 'under no uneasiness whatever'. Murdock gives the 
final results as 24 'Government Members', French 20, moderate 
Reformers 20, Ultra Reformers 5, Compact Party 7, doubtful 6, 
others 2. Meanwhile Sydenham had chosen Kingston as the seat 
of government, improvised buildings, and purchased 'about thirty 
acres in the heart of the Town at a very cheap rate . . . worth three 
times the sum which I gave for it' 'all this (he added) upon my 
own responsibility'.^ The legislature of the Union met on June 13, 
1841. The success of that session Sydenham was to return to 
office in Great Britain at its close is extolled in several of his 
most famous dispatches. To outward appearances it was spectacu- 
lar, but to Melbourne and Russell Sydenham admitted that he 

r Bagot to Stanley, Jail. 26, 1842, Bagot Papers, iv. 26: 'It was solely by his 
dexterity and exertions that two returns were effected, and three others in conse- 
quence of these two.' 

1 'When constituencies were overawed by the introduction of bands of non 
Electors.* Metcalfe to Stanley, April 22, 1844, G. Series, 460. 312. 

3 G. Series, 390. 171 ; Scrope, op. cit. y p. 227. 


had 'to fight the whole battle' himself, and it was *a considerable 
pull on both one's adroitness and temper particularly as I had 
"a ministerial crisis" on my hands on the very day of the meeting*. 
He had 'got rid of his Solicitor-General. 1 The Solicitor-General 
was Robert Baldwin, and the 'ministerial crisis' was the first 
formal notice of an alliance between the Upper Canadian Reformers 
and the French under La Fontaine which was soon to make the 
Baconian system of governance for Canada thenceforth impos- 


Both Sydenham and Murdock have been unsparingly critical of 
Baldwin's conduct in June, 1841. 'Acting upon some principle of 
conduct which I can reconcile neither with honor nor common 
sense', wrote the governor-general, 'he strove to bring about this 
Union, and at the last having as he thought, effected it, coolly pro- 
posed to me, on the day before Parliament was to meet, to break 
up the Government altogether, dismiss several of his Colleagues, 
and replace them by men whom I believe he had not known for 
24 hours. ... I had been made aware of this Gentleman's pro- 
ceedings for two or three days, and certainly could hardly bring 
myself to tolerate them. ... I at once treated it, joined to his 
previous conduct, as a resignation of his office, and informed him 
that I accepted it without the least regret. '* 

By every consideration of practical politics the abortive coup of 
1841, as Sydenham stated bluntly, might have jeopardized 'the 
good Government of the Country, and have rendered all my 
efforts unavailing' ; 3 it was perhaps as fortunate for the Reformers 
themselves and for their cause as for Sydenham and the country 
that Baldwin was not called upon to form a government in 1841. 
But there was much beneath the surface that neither Sydenham 
nor Murdock could have known. The alliance with the French was 
not the product of twenty-four hours, nor was it 'within two or 
three days of the session', as Murdock states, that Baldwin 
'entered into communication' with them. The conviction that the 
Union was inevitable and that it could be used to force responsible 

1 Scrope, op. cit., p. 244; Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 449. 

- Sydenham to Russell, June 26, 1841, 'Confidential'. G. Series, 391. 265. 
For Murdock's view see Scrope, op. cit., pp. 230 et seq. Baldwin had proposed 
the retirement of Draper, Sullivan, Day, and Ogden, all rated as Conservatives, 
and the substitution of La Fontaine, Morin, Hincks, and himself. 

3 G. Series, 391. 265. 


government in its final form had been acted upon by Francis 
Hincks for more than two years. It had been reached at least two 
months before Lord John Russell proposed the Union in June, 
1839, and four months before Sydenham himself had been ap- 
pointed to effect it. The design was practically complete before 
Sydenham arrived in Canada. Thus for more than two years, 
three or four men, in discreet and confidential intercourse, had 
been labouring at the foundations. But despite the over-sanguine 
hopes of Hincks and Baldwin and Morin, the first session under the 
Union came upon them unprepared. The tactics in the end were 
crude and unavailing. It could scarcely have been otherwise. But 
the strategy remained, and remains, a landmark in the political 
history of Canada, and Murdock himself lived to see how far 
Robert Baldwin, whose whole political life from beginning to end 
was a vigil with an uncompromising conscience, could conform to 
the highest ' principles of political honour by which British states- 
men are governed*. 

Hincks 's first letter to La Fontaine on the subject of Durham's 
Report was written from Toronto on April 12, 1839, without 
previous personal acquaintance. 1 In the La Fontaine Papers are 
to be found no fewer than thirty-four of his confidential letters 
from that date to June 29, 1841, and it would be hard to cite a 
better illustration of Lord Bryce's dictum that what passes for 
public opinion usually has a very select and intimate origin. So 
carefully guarded and confidential was this intercourse that it was 
carried on not by post but through the agency of trusted friends. 3 
Nothing more discreet, more persuasive, more insinuating and 
adroit than these letters could have been written by Sydenham 

'The British party below (wrote Hincks) calculates as does Lord 
Durham on the French-Canadian party being destroyed in the United 
Legislature. This as I have always said might be the case as far as 
national objects are concerned, but if we all combine as Canadians to 
promote the good of all classes in Canada there cannot be a doubt that 
under the new Constitution worked as Lord Durham proposes, the 
only party which would suffer would be the bureaucrats. . . . 

I wish we could convince you, that a really responsible Executive 

1 'Though I have not the honour of personal acquaintance with you.' La 
Fontaine Papers, i. i . 

2 'Like yourself I have so little confidence in our post office that I seldom 
send political letters in that way.' * I dont like trusting the post-office with poli- 
tical letters.' May 14, May 26, 1839. La Fontaine Papers. 

34" L 1 


Council would accomplish all that we want. ... As to the Union 
question, you should not mind Lord D/s motives, but the effect of the 
scheme. ... I am sure Lord D. from his speaking of not subjecting 
you to the British minority of Lower Canada understood well, that 
the Upper Canadian British would be your friends. N'importe. I 
am sure they will be.* 1 

With this clear theme and with convincing goodwill Hincks 
grappled patiently month by month with the developing details of 
the Union. It was not easy to convince a French-Canadian that 
a measure which outraged his instincts and many of his interests 
could yet be to his advantage. The funded debt, the irregularities 
of representation, the proscription of the French language, Hincks 
conceded to be 'monstrously oppressive and unjust*. Sydenham's 
grim fight for French rights against the * Compact' Tories in both 
provinces was of course unknown. It seemed that he had no 
solution but Durham's for the question of race. But Hincks im- 
plored La Fontaine to let the Tories do the quarrelling with the 
governor-general. Tray do try not to quarrel with Mr. Thomson. 
Keep your enemies in the wrong and you will soon overthrow 
them.' 'Be assured,' he repeated, 'the Union is the only chance 
for us Reformers. I am glad to find that you are cautious in advo- 
cating it. I almost fear Le Canadien has said too much in its favour. 
Let the Tories fall into the pit of their own digging/ 'My confi- 
dence in a Union Legislature is unbounded. We can not be beat. 92 
With the mutual introduction of friends the circle slowly grew to 
include Cherrier, Morin, and Vigcr, Baldwin, Woodruff, Merritt, 
and Dunn. The meeting of Baldwin and La Fontaine, it is need- 
less to say, was a turning-point in Canadian history, for Baldwin's 
character and 'incorruptibility' became the sheet-anchor of the 
alliance until responsible government was finally won. 


Baldwin's position, however, like Howe's in Nova Scotia, grew 
increasingly difficult. He had become Solicitor-General during 
the last session of the old Assembly, as a 'public pledge', he avowed, 
of a 'reasonably well-grounded confidence that the government 
of my country is to be carried on in accordance with the principles 
of Responsible Government which I have ever held'. After the 
Union he accepted a seat in the Executive Council but with a 
characteristic caveat to Sydenham that he 'had an entire want of 

1 La Fontaine Papers, Apr. 12, Apr. 30, 1839. 
1 Nov. 14, Dec. 4, 1839, id., i. 27. 31. 


political confidence in all of his colleagues except Mr. Dunn, Mr. 
Garrison, and Mr. Daly'. 1 Not content with this he served the 
;ame notice upon his Tory colleagues themselves Draper, Sullivan 
his own cousin), Day, and Ogden. A difficulty which his sleepless 
conscience had discovered in the oath of office under Head was 
low revived, and was referred by Sydenham to Baldwin himself 
tnd the Attorney- General as the law officers of the Crown ! A 
collection of Baldwin's elaborate memoranda, usually in the third 
>erson, dictated by that uncompromising l conscientious principle' 
vhich marked every gesture of his public life, would make a 
:urious anthology. 

By September, 1839, La Fontaine had begun to see hope in the 
Jnion. His consternation when Baldwin took office was allayed 
>y Hincks. 'Come what will,' he wrote, 'I am anxious that you 
hould believe what I know to be the case that Mr. R. W. Baldwin 
s incorruptible. He has taken office solely from a sense of public 
luty. . . . Depend upon it all our liberties must be attained by that 
neasure no matter what may (be) its details.' 'I know you think 
ve shall never get Responsible Government, that the ministry are 
leceiving us granted But we will make them give it whether they 
ike it or not* Slowly but surely La Fontaine's diffidence, his 
icepticism, his traditional Lower Canadian preference for direct 
iction, gave way before Hincks 's mastery of the indirect methods 
>f responsible government. 3 A visit to Toronto at Hincks 's invita- 
ion during the summer of 1840 further cemented the alliance. 

As the Union approached Hincks plied his arguments with in- 
creasing effect a judicious letter from Buller, the old files of the 
Examiner, above all 'the political integrity of Mr. Baldwin'. 'He 

1 Hincks, Political History, p. 19. Sydenham who had the most positive in- 
tructions from Russell to 'refuse any explanation (of responsible government) 
vhich may be construed to imply an acquiescence' beyond the Resolutions of 
837 (Egerton and Grant, p. 266) had refused to submit his dispatches to the 
Assembly; but he made to them the famous declaration that he had 'received 
ler Majesty's commands to administer the government of these provinces in 
ccordance with the well-understood wishes and interests of the people, and to 
>ay to their feelings, as expressed through their representatives, the deference 
hat is justly due to them'. Brit. Parl. Papers, 1840, Canada, Part IV, p. 13. 
lad Baldwin seen the dispatches and Sydenham's private letters it is hard to 
>elieve that he would have taken office. Hincks held that it was good policy to 
be able to use the Gov. Gen's name on our side at the next election'. 
La Fontaine Paper s, i. 55. 

2 La Fontaine Papers, i. 13, 55, 64. Cf. La Fontaine's insistence upon an 
elective Legislative Council, upon Baldwin as Speaker, upon stopping the 
supplies, &c. 


only asks our confidence till the meeting of Parliament.' 'Be 
assured you have not a firmer friend. ... If Mr. Viger, yourself, 
Morin, Girouard, Cherrier, and others were to exert yourselves, 
surely the people would see the necessity of Union/ In December, 
1840, Hincks suggested in the strictest confidence that 'the acces- 
sion both of Mr. Morin & Yourself to the Government would be 
indispensably necessary'. The governor must 'succumb to the 
House & take such a Cabinet as it will dictate. . . . We will teach 
him some truths of which he seems still ignorant/ With the elec- 
tions of March, 1841 , there is an added note of bitterness from La 
Fontaine ; but Hincks, after a characteristic analysis of the returns, 
implored him not to retire from public life but to contest all doubt- 
ful elections, and summon a caucus of the party to act with 'the 
elements ready here for a Reform Cabinet'. 1 

A visit of Baldwin to Montreal in May confirmed the hope that 
the party 'will be kept united'. On the 26th Hincks thought 'Dunn 
and Harrison will go right and that Daly will join them. The dis- 
missal of the Tory Councillors must be a sine qua non but we do 
not agree as to the time, and the mode.' In confidence he expressed 
Baldwin's opinion and his own that they must act at the open- 
ing of the session, 'and if His Excellency will not do it, tender 
their resignation This is the honest straight course'. 3 The 
denouement is briefly told. The evening of May 28 Hincks spent 
at the home of Baldwin where 'Dr. Baldwin (Baldwin's venerable 
father) , Price, myself & Baldwin were decidedly for not acting under 
any circumstances with the present men. I see the danger to Mr. 
Baldwin's character in acting with them for a single day & be 
assured he does too/ By this time, however, little hope remained 
that Harrison, Dunn, and other moderates would 'come up to the 
mark'. In any event there could be 'no idea that the Govr. Genl. 
will come to their terms'^ And thus the coup of 1841 which Syden- 
ham could 'reconcile neither with honor nor common sense' was 
in the last analysis an act of self-defence, actuated by 'the danger 
to Mr. Baldwin's character'! 

In truth the first attempt to force a reform Cabinet with responsi- 
ble government disintegrated into a fiasco in the hands of Syden- 

1 La Fontaine Papers, i. 84, 90, 78, no, 120, 134, et passim. 

1 Id., i. 148. 'I think Mr. Baldwin concurs with me but this is of course 
strictly confidential. It is almost dangerous to talk with Executive Councillors 
on such subjects.' 

3 Id., i. 152. 


ham's incomparable finesse it was 'not even formidable '. Hincks 
carried the election of Cuvillier as Speaker, but by June 29 he con- 
fessed ruefully that he could * hardly be surprised that the Lower 
Canadian members are disgusted at the conduct of our Reformers 
I am so myself. For Baldwin the die was cast : 'if he was sure of 
being deserted by the whole of Upper Canada he would stand by 
the Reformers of Lower Canada.' The full import of this did not 
at once appear, but Baldwin was to find it, as we shall see, after 
many days. Meanwhile Harrison 'safe', enigmatical, and cau- 
tious though defeated by the Tories in his election, was deep in 
Sydenham's confidence. Dunn, too, and a dozen others responded 
to his forthright policy. As late as June 29 Hincks was still pre- 
pared to fight through the session. 'Our dictator will be gone 
before another and public opinion will bring the renegade Re- 
formers back to their faith/ l But it was not long before he too sur- 
rendered to the spell, and Sydenham, a fortnight before his death, 
was prepared to name him Inspector-General for one of the most 
remarkable periods of public works, buoyant finance, and immigra- 
tion in Canadian history. 

The session was not to close, however, without a final attempt by 
Baldwin to impale the governor-general upon his great 'principle'. 
With all their stiffness and inelegance Baldwin's famous resolu- 
tions of September were perhaps the clearest forecast of responsi- 
ble government hitherto formulated. While the governor was not 
'constitutionally responsible to any other than the authorities of 
the Empire', the House had the constitutional right of holding his 
advisers 'politically responsible for every act of the provincial 
government of a local character, sanctioned by such government 
while such advisers continue in office'. Sydenham escaped the 
issue only by entrusting Harrison with alternative resolutions 
which did service on both sides during the Metcalfe crisis, and 
served for many a year to deepen the mystery of Sydenham's whole 
conception of responsible government. 2 Before the next session it 

1 Murdock in Scrope, op. cit., p. 232. La Fontaine Papers, i. 142, 157, IS 1 - 

2 Ilincks always maintained that Sydenham's views underwent a decided 
change. Political History, p. 32. Cf. also Metcalfe to Stanley, Aug. 5, 1843: 
'If Lord Sydenham did not intend this, he was more mistaken than from his 
known ability one would suppose to be possible; and if he did intend it, he, 
with his eyes open, carried into practice that very theory of Responsible Colonial 
Government which he had pronounced his opinion decidedly against.' 

In any case Sydenham had no escape from Russell's peremptory influence. 
Cf. Thomson to Russell, Dec. 15, 1839, 'Confidential', G. Series, 387. 28 : '1 am 


was universally conceded that Sydenham's composite executive of 

moderate Tories and Reformers could not weather a vote of want 

of confidence. Baldwin's next attempt, as we shall see, was more 



To outward appearances, at least, the long summer session of 
1841 closed in a frenzy of achievement. The most difficult of 
Sydenham's measures, the District CouncilTBill for Upper Canada 
'word for word after my ordinance for the Lower Province' 
passed the combined opposition of Tories, Ultras, and jobbers by a 
vote of 42 to 29. *I beat them all three', wrote Sydenham in one 
of the last of his exultant letters to his brother, 'to the astonishment 
of the spectators' : 

*I have brought the Assembly by degrees into perfect order, ready to 
follow wherever I may lead. . . . The five great works I aimed at have 
been got through the establishment of a board of works with ample 
powers; the admission of aliens; a new system of county courts, the 

bound to say that the representations which have been made in England, of the 
nature of that demand, are not exactly what I have found to be the case.' 
Harrison's resolutions were as follows : 

(1) 'That the most important, as well as the most undoubted, of the politi- 
cal rights of the people of this Province, is that of having a Provincial Parliament, 
for the protection of their liberties, for the exercise of a constitutional influence 
over the Executive Departments of their Government, and for Legislation upon 
all matters of internal Government. 

(2) 'That the head of the Executive Government of the Province being, 
within the limits of his Government, the Representative of the Sovereign, is 
responsible to the Imperial authority alone; but that, nevertheless, the manage- 
ment of our local affairs can only be conducted by him, by and with the assis- 
tance, counsel and information, of subordinate Officers in the Province. 

(3) 'That in order to preserve, between the different branches of the Provin- 
cial Parliament, that harmony which is essential to the peace, welfare and good 
Government, of the Province, the chief Advisers of the Representative of the 
Sovereign, constituting a Provincial Administration under him, ought to be men 
possessed of the confidence of the representatives of the people, thus affording 
a guarantee that the well understood wishes and interests of the people, which 
our Gracious Sovereign has declared shall be the rule of the Provincial Govern- 
ment, will, on all occasions, be faithfully represented and advocated. 

(4) 'That the People of this Province have, moreover, a right to expect from 
such Provincial administration, the exertion of their best endeavours that the 
Imperial authority, within its constitutional limits, shall be exercised in the 
manner most consistent with their well understood wishes and interests.' 

Journals of Assembly, Sept. 3, 1841, vol. i, pp. 480 f. 

Baldwin's original resolutions as well are given in Leacock, Baldwin, La Fon- 
taine, Hincks, Makers of Canada, vol. xiv, pp. 10910. Professor Morison, it 
would seem, has given Baldwin's resolutions as those of Harrison. Op. cit., 
pp. 119-21. 


regulation of the public lands . . . and lastly this District Council 


What do you think of this, you miserable people in England, who 
spend two years upon a single measure?' 

The establishment of common schools, the opening of vast 
regions of the province to new settlement, the return of public 
credit, the completion of public works with the projected guarantee 
of 1,500,000 from Great Britain, proved in themselves, as Mur- 
dock truly observes, 'the practical and most enduring monument' 
of his administration. One searches in vain in this crescendo of 
confidence for a false note, a sense of the danger that lurked 
beneath the surface not only for his own administration in Canada 
but for Melbourne's, then tottering to its fall in Great Britain. 
Was he 'whistling to keep their courage up' and his own? His 
letters to Melbourne and to Russell still spoke the language of 
infallibility. 'Send out as my successor', he implored, 'some one 
with House of Commons and Ministerial habits, a person who 
will not shrink from work, and who will govern, as I do, himself. 
Such a man not a soldier, but a statesman will find no difficul- 
ties in his path that he cannot easily surmount ; for everything will 
be in grooves running of itself, and only requiring general direc- 
tion.' 1 

It would be idle perhaps to speculate upon Sydenham's reputa- 
tion in Canadian history had he remained to administer the system 
which he now believed to be 'perfectly stable' whether in truth 
a presentiment of political disaster already clouded his mind. 
There can scarcely be a doubt that his days were already numbered 
before the fatal fall from his horse on September 4, 1841 . As early 
as April 10 an attack of chronic gout, the tenth in little more than 
a year, was nearly fatal 'the doctors thought me gone'. In May 
it was 'not gout merely, but fever, and horrible prostration both 
of mind and body. In fact I have been done by the work and the 
climate united, and God knows whether I shall see the other 
side of the Atlantic again !' In the midst of his 'ministerial crisis' 
he still hoped to 'get through triumphantly; unless my wand, as 
they call it here, has lost all power over the members, which I do 
not believe to be the case. But the excitement and worry are more 

than I can stand I long for September, beyond which I will not 

stay if they were to make me Duke of Canada and Prince of 

1 Scrope, op. cit., p. 245 ; Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 449. 


Regiopolis.' It was Bagot's opinion, derived no doubt from Mur- 
dock himself, that Sydenham 's 'health would scarcely have carried 
him back to England.' Wakefield during the Metcalfe crisis wrote 
that to his knowledge three governors Durham, Sydenham, and 
Bagot had been 'literally worried to death' in the turmoil of 
Canadian politics ; but the testimony of that wily witness was never 
more unsafe than in I844. 1 

Sydenham 's greatest achievements concern only indirectly the 
theme of these studies. He was by common consent one of the 
ablest administrators in Canadian history. The secret of his 
success he once described to his brother and biographer. 'The 
people know that I am ready at all hours and times to do business, 
and that what I have once undertaken I will carry through; so 
they follow my star.' 2 Indirectly his administrative reforms 
his 'wand' and his 'star' expedited responsible government by 
bridging the gulf between the spirited but heedless agitation of 
the early 'thirties and the 'practical polities' of Hincks and Morin 
and Macdonald. It was as a minister that he founded a dynasty in 
Canadian history. As a governor he was in a sense the last of his 
line, for his 'wand', like Prospero's, was broken when he reported 
at last to Lord John Russell that his task was done. 3 

Two weeks before the death of Sydenham at Kingston on 
September 19, 1841, the Melbourne Whigs had fallen from power 
in Great Britain, and the Colonial Office had passed to Lord 
Stanley in the Tory administration of Sir Robert Peel. 



Sydenham 's successor belonged to a different school. Sir Charles 
Bagot's training had been diplomacy rather than politics; but if 
politics, as Lord Morley has maintained, is 'the art of the possible', 
Bagot's diplomacy proved to be statesmanship of the highest order. 
In his letters there is nothing of Sydenham 's exuberant confidence. 
Modesty, suavity, 'temper and sound sense', sincere goodwill com- 
bined with perfect urbanity and an insinuating address, were 
strange weapons for the hurly-burly of Canadian politics. Bagot 

1 Scrope, op. cit., pp. 257 f. Bagot to Stanley, 'Confidential*, G. Series, 188. 
158. Kaye, Life and Correspondence of Charles Lord Metcalfe , London, 1854, 

ii- 574- 

2 Scrope, op. cit., p. 255. 3 Aug. 28, 1841, G. Series, 391. 317. 


once wrote that he had not the 'political courage' to make one of 
the most fateful decisions in Canadian history in defiance of his 
instructions; and Stanley, like many another unwary observer, 
friend as well as foe, was content to take him at his word. But few 
could undervalue Bagot's fine spirit with impunity. When the 
crisis came it was Bagot who spoke the language of mastery, and 
his courage flashed like a rapier. He transfixed Sherwood with a 
single thrust. La Fontaine he manoeuvred into grateful acquies- 
cence. The redoubtable Baldwin himself he kept at sword's point. 
Stanley and Peel, secure in the easy assurance of authority, were 
disarmed, to their utter astonishment, by a veritable feat of 
diplomatic fence. Even before his last grim adversary, Bagot 
brought his bright foil up to the salute with a serene gesture of 
'Victory ... on the Side of peace and Union'. 

To his friend Lord Ashburton Bagot once described one of those 
vain men 'who mistake the most dogged obstinacy for firmness of 
character'. 1 Such a mistake could never be charged to Bagot, and 
his diplomatic experience had included a passage at arms with the 
Czar of Russia, a swift stroke in Canning's best manner with the 
Prince of Orange at the Hague, and the Rush-Bagot convention, 
the prelude to a century of peace with the United States. In the 
opinion of Hincks and perhaps no man of that day was in a better 
position to judge this was 'the very best school' for Canadian 
governorship. Bagot was not like Sydenham a 'party man', and 
he was not like Metcalfe inclined to 'paternal despotism'. 'The 
secret of Sir Charles Bagot 's success', adds Hincks, 'was his strict 
impartiality.' His traducers who, even at his untimely death, repre- 
sented him as 'incapable of detecting any intrigue, or resisting 
any pretensions' were strangely ignorant of their man. There was 
'not the slightest evidence in support of their assertions'. 2 Egerton 
Ryerson, usually a more disinterested judge of men than of mea- 
sures, credited Bagot pre-eminently with 'discrimination' and 
'moral courage'. 

The secret in turn of this serene ' impartiality' lay perhaps in a 
character which Hincks could only have surmised. The sallies of 
wit and playfulness in the Bagot Papers will never lose their charm. 
Bagot brought to Canada, as he said, only 'sexagenary vigour' of 
body, but his mind, to the last recorded syllable, spoke the lan- 
guage of perennial youth. The most intimate of these early friends, 

1 Bagot Papers, v. 42. 

1 Letter (by Hincks) signed 'A Canadian' in the Montreal Pilot, Aug. 16, 1844. 

34" M m 


perhaps, was Lord Haddington, First Lord of the Admiralty in 
Peel's administration the 'Neptunus Britannicus' of the Bagot 
Papers, 'the God of the Seas' whose vast bulk, like the apparel of 
his 'Amphitrite', was 'the amazement and admiration of all the 
Fishes'. Wellington and Wellesley Bagot 's uncles by marriage 
Wharncliffe and Clarendon and Peel himself flit through the pages 
of the Bagot Papers for 'two or three days of duck shooting* at 
Drayton Manor or 'a turn . , . after the pheasants among the 
migglebugs.' I And when Stanley lays aside his official instructions 
for the intimacies of private intercourse he turns to the language 
of the river for his metaphor of Canadian policy : 

* A stream you will have to pull against, do not doubt it ; but . . . bend 
your back to the oar like a man, and above all, take none into your 
crew who will not bend their backs too, and who instead of pulling 
with you, will either be culling crabs, or backing water when they are 
most wanted for "Hard all".' 2 


In his Canadian policy Stanley had the advantage not only of 
Lord John Russell's experience but of his deliberate advice and 
support; but as late as October, 1842, Murdock doubted how far 
he was 'really alive to the true state of Canada, and to the necessity 
of governing through the Assembly'. 3 With invincible confidence 
Stanley set out to govern Canada from Downing Street upon the 
dictates of British public opinion. What would the British public 
think of an accommodation with 'men tainted with violent sus- 
picion of treasonable practices'? How could Bagot's 'Great 
Measure' be commended in a public dispatch, as Bagot had im- 
plored, 'without running counter to public opinion in England'? 
How could the Queen declare 'her especial confidence in the 
"loyalty" ' of M. Girouard?< 

Stanley's policy is thus ready-made, largely by the vociferous 
loyalty of Colonel MacNab and the Compact. Bagot was instructed 
'to consult ... (so far as may be consistent with your duty to your 
Sovereign and your responsibility to her constitutional advisers) 
the wishes of the mass of the community' : 

"The only Passports to your favor will be Loyalty to the Queen, 
attachment to the British connection, and an efficient and faithful 
discharge of Public Duty. 

1 Bagot Papers, ii. 10. * Id., ix. 60. 

3 Clarendon to Bagot, Oct. 9, 1841, id. t ii. 170; id., ii. 676. 

4 Stanley to Bagot, 'Private*, id., ix. 186 ff. 


... In Civil Matters, it must be your policy to seek to with-draw the 
Legislature, and the population generally, from the discussion of 
abstract and theoretical questions ... to the calm and dispassionate 
consideration of practical measures. . . . You will endeavour to avail 
yourself of the advice and services of the ablest men, without reference 
to distinctions of local party, which upon every occasion you will do 
your utmost to discourage/ 1 

In this it is easy to recognize the policy of Lord John Russell 
and much of the phraseology of Sydenham ; but the private letters 
make it very clear who were to be 'the ablest men' with the neces- 
sary passports to favour. Colonel MacNab dined with Stanley on 
the Queen's birthday. He was 'well-disposed and reasonable'. 
'Although I am far from wishing to reestablish the old "Family 
Compact" of Upper Canada', added Stanley, 'if you come into 
difficulties, that is the class of men to fall back upon.' 2 Even 
British Whig influences were suspect. Murdock, Sydenham's 
indefatigable secretary, had remained in Canada. Bagot found 
him 'nearly the best man of business I ever knew'. 'I hope he is 
not a confidential adviser,' remarked Stanley, and proposed as 
Murdock's successor Captain Higginson 'fresh from the manage- 
ment of all the niceties of a Colonial Legislative Body' under Sir 
Charles Metcalfe in Jamaica 'where he had a very difficult game to 
play, and a very ticklish Legislature to deal with'.3 Metcalfe and 
Captain Higginson were both to play their part in Canada in due 
time. Meanwhile Rawson, who had served under Gladstone at the 
Board of Trade, was to succeed Murdock, with added responsi- 
bilities as permanent ' Chief Officer of the Executive Government 
next after the Governor'. 4 

Bagot brought to his task in Canada, however, one prepossession 
of great moment: the French- Canadians must be taken magnani- 
mously into the Union. As early as 1838 Melbourne, whose cool 
and somewhat sardonic estimates of men and measures were sel- 
dom at fault, had written that the French population must be given 
'its clear weight . . . according to its numbers. Swamping them, 
or any devices by which the real power is given to a minority, will 
not do in these days.' 5 Bagot had expressed the same view to 

1 Oct. 8, 1841, G. Series, 445. 430 ff. 

* May 17, 1842, Bagot Papers, ix. 60. 3 Id., iv. 154; ix. 60. 

< Like Sir Rupert D. George in Nova Scotia. G. Series, 447. 128, 'Private'. 
Murdock would have remained had he been offered the same terms. Murdock 
to Bagot, Sept. 3, 1842, Bagot Papers, ii. 564. 

5 To Lord John Russell, Dec. 27, 1838, Melbourne Papers, p. 444. 


Stanley before leaving England. There was advice to the same 
effect from unexpected quarters. Colborne, now Lord Seaton, 
wrote that the French could yet be 'recovered'. 'Aufond', urged 
Sir George Murray, 'they are the most anti-Yankee, as also the 
most Monarchical portion of the population of the Provinces.' An 
official of Bagot's old post at Washington wrote earnestly that the 
recovery of their affections was 'a matter of the deepest political 
and Diplomatic importance'. 1 

Advice in Canada was equally emphatic. Murdock interpreted 
even the Sydenham regime as the prelude to conciliation. 'No 
half measures can now be safely resorted to. ... That involves the 
admission of the French to a fair share of power.' 'The over- 
whelming importance of gaining the confidence and removing 
the distrust' of the French was urged from the first by Draper, whom 
Bagot considered 'the most Conservative and perhaps the ablest' 
of his councillors. The convictions of Hincks and of Baldwin 
have already been noted, but none urged the inclusion of the 
French- Canadians into the Executive Council more persistently 
than S. B. Harrison, and in the end, as we shall see, none urged it 
with greater effect. Bagot afterwards stated that this was 'no new 
opinion on the part of the Council : they had advocated it with 
Lord Sydenham; and when it suited his policy, he had adopted it, 
but unsuccessfully' by offering a seat in the Executive Council to 
La Fontaine. 2 


One of the political realities in Canada beneath the 'thin veil' 
of Sydenham's success became apparent from the outset. It was 
everywhere conceded that the government could not command a 
majority in the Assembly. 'It was only by dint of the greatest 
energy', wrote Bagot, 'and I must add the unscrupulous personal 
interference of Lord Sydenham, combined with practices which 
I would not use, and your Lordship would not recommend, in 
addition to the promise of the Loan and the bribe of the public 
Works, that Lord Sydenham managed to get through the Session.' 3 

1 Bagot Papers, ii. 144 ff., 88. 

a 'I am convinced of the soundness of the views to which you had come in 
this matter. . . . After the Rebellion the Government had the option either of 
crushing the French and Anglifying the Province or of pardoning them and 
making them friends. But as the latter policy was adopted, it must be carried 
out to its legitimate consequences.' Murdock to Bagot, Sept. 3, 1842, Bagot 
Papers, ii. 564 ff. ; Draper to Bagot, May 18, 1842, 'Private', id., ii. 373 ; Bagot to 
Stanley, Sept. 26, 1842, 'Confidential', G. Series, 188. 158. 3 Ibid. 


It is clear from Harrison's exhaustive analysis, to be noted 
presently, that two alternatives were placed before Bagot upon 
his arrival. One was 'to carry the French in a body with the 
Government; to do which it was necessary to take in Mr. 
Baldwin'. To effect this, Draper with great magnanimity re- 
peatedly tendered and in the end, as we shall see, forced his 
own resignation. But with Stanley's exhortations from the tow- 
path ringing in his ears this was scarcely the 'metaphorical crew' 
for Bagot's race at Kingston. The alternative was what Harrison 
called 'the principle of extension ' the old attempt to compose 
conflicting interests in the Assembly by including them in neutral- 
izing proportions in the Executive Council. 

Less than a month after his arrival in Canada Bagot startled 
Stanley by proposing Hincks as Inspector-General the ablest 
financier, indisputably, and without any comparison, the best 
public accountant in the Country'. 'He is at heart radicalissimus', 
added Bagot, 'but he supported Sydenham's Government, and 
says he will support mine, and he has quarrelled with his friend 
Baldwin.' l Hincks's response, 'prompt, straightforward, and un- 
conditional', raised him at once to a position which he never lost 
in Bagot's estimation. Overtures to Cartwright of the old Com- 
pact party, on the other hand, brought 'mere personalities' 
nothing 'tangible, bold or statesmanlike'; and even Sherwood's 
final acceptance taxed Draper's most 'discreet diplomacy', and 
threatened, as Bagot wrote, to prove 'wormwood to Mr. Harrison, 
my liberal Colonial Secretary West'. 2 Meanwhile Bagot had ap- 
pointed two French-Canadians to the bench, and had passed a 
month in Montreal, 'altogether the hardest I ever passed in my 
life (he remarked) showing my bienveillance towards them . . . 
thus smoothing my path hereafter'. Every attempt to disintegrate 
the French party by seducing individuals was abandoned : it could 
not win the party and would only ruin the man, who 'is then 
immediately in their eyes "Le Vendu" and "Le Vendu" he 
remains'.^ Such were the prospects when a confidential letter 
from Bagot to Harrison on July 2 drew from that cool and wary 
adviser a ruthless analysis which brought 'the policy of extension' 
down like a house of cards. 

1 Bagot Papers, iv. 255, 54. Hincks's name had been suggested by Sydenham 
a week before his death, but Draper 'in the last interview I had with him* had 
objected. Draper to Bagot, June 9, 1842. 

3 'A very honest and valuable man.' Bagot to Stanley, id., iv. 325 if., 278. 

3 Id., v. 22 ff. ; iv. 325 ff. 


Both Draper and Harrison the right and left bowers of Bagot's 
council were in agreement upon the necessity of admitting the 
French as a party. For Draper the advice meant his own resigna- 
tion, and Bagot's tribute to Draper's magnanimity reveals the inti- 
mate sympathies between them. Harrison's personality, on the 
other hand, is somewhat elusive among the traditions of these 
eventful years. His wariness, his discretion, his conspicuous 
moderation, his dexterity, and above all a certain inscrutability, 
left him a somewhat mysterious but pervasive influence among 
his contemporaries. 1 The fact remains that Harrison's masterly 
letter of July 1 1 appears in substance and much of it verbatim 
in Bagot's first tentative project of 'the Great Measure' a fortnight 
later to Stanley. 2 In truth Harrison's influence is here unmistak- 
able, and his role is nothing less than sponsor for the first demon- 
stration of responsible government in Canada. "The Government', 
he concluded, 'will be held to that doctrine whoever may form the 
administration. '3 

Within a week Harrison's dispassionate analysis was confirmed 
by another from Draper. 4 Stanley himself had feared that 'this 

1 Even Hincks whose shrewd and somewhat cynical opinions are seldom at 
fault seems to have been mystified by Harrison : 'He is at heart a liberal.' 'I know 
he never commits himself on paper. . . . Harrison ought to tell us his intention 
honestly.' 'Harrison will be a spy & traitor in our Camp, always intriguing with 
weak men & trying to influence them.' 'Harrison ... I think honest.' 'He will 
go no further than he can help.' 'I believe him really a liberal man.' Hincks to 
La Fontaine, La Fontaine Papers, i. 134, 161, 90, 124, 142, no. 

1 'Since I last wrote I have received a very sensible and proper letter from 
Mr. Harrison. . . . He puts aside all personal considerations, but urges strongly 
upon me the necessity of securing if possible, the assistance of The French as 
a Party as indeed do Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Draper whom I consider as The 
Conservatives of My Council.' July 28, Bagot Papers, v. 22 ff. 

3 'The principle of extension' had 'failed altogether'. 'It is absolutely neces- 
sary ... to carry . . . the bulk of the French Canadian members. This moreover 
is nothing more than justice. . . . There is no disguising the fact that the French 
members possess the power of the Country. . . . The Government does not now 
command a majority in the House of Assembly ('the test of everything'). . . . 
Such will be made manifest at the very earliest period of the session. A vote of 
want of confidence will be brought forward and carried. ... I who introduced 
and all who voted for the resolution of last session would be bound to bow to 
the decision of the House. ... I do not for one moment suppose it possible to 
resort to the old system of Government irrespective of the views of the House 
of Assembly, because the consequences of such a course would be fearful in the 
last degree. ... I therefore respectfully yet earnestly offer it as my advice to 
Your Excellency, that Mr. Baldwin and an individual of the French party, such 
as will answer the object, should be at once taken into the Government. . . . Not 
being in a situation to consult my colleagues on this point I am compelled to 
offer this as my individual advice.' Harrison to Bagot, 'Private and Confidential', 
July 11, 1842, Bagot Papers, ii. 412. * July 16, 1842, id. t ii. 442. 


chequering of black & white will not produce a harmonious grey* x 
it seemed clear that the 'principle of extension' had hopelessly 
broken down. It stands to Bagot's credit that he was the first of 
British governors to reach and to act upon that conviction. His 
desperate attempt to convince the Colonial Office stands out in 
retrospect above all other incidents of the 'Great Measure' either 
in Canada or in Great Britain as perhaps the greatest of all Bagot's 
exploits in diplomacy. 


In one of the most intimate of his private letters Stanley had 
pictured Bagot 'in one of your Canadian rapids'. Never was there 
an apter metaphor. It was easy for Stanley at Brighton to signal 
'Hard all'! to bid Bagot stroke his crew against the stream, 
bending their backs to the oar like men. But the crew, responsive 
as they were, knew the river better than Stanley, and there is 
something of breathless interest in the adventure as Bagot pulls 
out into the current and rows for the rapids. 

There is evidence that Bagot was not unprepared for the con- 
clusions so emphatically agreed upon by Harrison and Draper. 2 
But with the dispatch of July 28 one is conscious of a new sense 
of direction, a steadying of the nerves, a courage rising to the 
emergency. A few significant words had just been received in one 
of Haddington's most intimate letters : 'if sub rosa as a friend I may 
venture to advise I would say to you take special care not to 
manifest that the course you are desired to take at all militates 
against your own judgment.' 3 The hint may supply a clue to much 
in the four or five inimitable dispatches in which Bagot feels his 
way warily towards the impending change. 

In diplomacy, to be sure, Bagot was upon his own ground. The 
first of his virtues was a steady eye to the facts; and his letters, 
adroit and insinuating though they may be, depend upon hard 
facts for their truth and cogency. If he were to await an adverse 
vote in the Assembly, the majority flushed with success could make 
their own terms. 4 He would thus sacrifice his present councillors 
including four at least of the ablest men in the legislature ; and such 
was the scarcity of ability for office that it would be impossible to 

1 April i, 1842, id., ix. 49. 

* Cf. his letter to Stanley of July 10, concluding 'it is perplexing infinitely 
perplexing.' Id., iv. 325. 

3 Id., ii. 348. 

4 Many of Bagot's phrases here suggest Draper's letter of July 16. 


replace them. On the other hand, there was danger in the experi- 
ment of admitting Baldwin and the French as a party : 

'I knew that I should make it in the very teeth of an almost universal 
feeling at home possibly (if I were to venture to act in such a case 
as I should not be likely to do, upon my own opinion only) in oppo- 
sition to a fixed and determined policy of your own certainly in 
opposition to Lord Durham's recorded sentiments and as certainly 
to Lord Sydenham's avowed practise But I am nevertheless arriving 
fast at the perswasion, that the moment is come when this question 
must be determined one way or the other/ 

To decide without Stanley's concurrence, he added, 'I have not 
the political courage*; for his decision 'a simple Yea or Nay would 
be sufficient'. 1 It is noteworthy at the same time that through 
Murdock and more subtly in his own letters to Stanley he hopes 
desperately for a free hand 'unfettered as to the course to be 
adopted towards the French'. 2 

But Stanley's 'simple Yea or Nay' reached Canada only after the 
crisis was over and 'after the power of acting upon it had passed 
away'. Stanley submitted Bagot's problem to Peel, and their joint 
deliberations were as characteristic of the old order as Bagot's 
were of the new. If the government party and Conservatives could 
not outvote 'the Radical and French Party', wrote Stanley, 'I own 
I fear the Union is a failure and the Canadas are gone'. Let Bagot 
carry on 'the game of multiplying these " Vendus" '. 3 Peel himself, 
wary but resolute, brought out of his treasure things new and old. 
Let Bagot not be disheartened by prospects of an adverse Assembly. 
The President of the United States and Louis Philippe in France 
were both contending successfully against popular majorities 'we 
know what George the Third did in 1783-4.' Bagot's policymustnot 
be 'considered shabby' by the supporters of British influence : Peel 
little suspected that MacNab and his ' loyal party ' were at that moment 
intriguing with the French in their own behalf. In offering their joint 
counsels 'in the strictest confidence' to Bagot, Stanley commended 
particuarly 'the game of Divide etampera; and Peel's opinions 
are the more valuable upon this point, because he has had no incon- 
siderable experience in playing the game which he recommends'. 4 

1 Bagot Papers, v. 22. 2 Id., ii. 564. 

3 ' I am not prepared to carry the notion of Colonial Responsible Government 
to such a length, and I cannot but recollect that we, as Ministers here, are a 
responsible Body, responsible to a public opinion, which in my judgement such 
a course would universally revolt.' Stanley to Peel, Aug. 27, 1842. Id., ix. 143. 

4 Id., ix. 151 ff. 



Stanley's letter reached Kingston on September 21. The delay 
was a godsend, for less than a week before, Bagot had 'shot the 
rapids' and was already pulling with measured strokes towards 
the smooth water beyond. 

The record of that week is a familiar story, and Bagot 's incom- 
parable letters of September 23 and 26 read like dramatic fiction. 
The Assembly had met on the 8th. It was clear that Baldwin, 
with the precision of a veteran, was massing his forces for the final 
assault. The tactics with Sydenham, seemingly so futile at the 
time, now provided the very resources of victory, for his ascen- 
dancy over La Fontaine and his followers was now irresistible. 
Bagot might dread the effect of Baldwin's name upon Downing 
Street and stipulate that he be ' brought in by the French Cana- 
dians ... to redeem their debt of gratitude to him'. But Bagot was 
not in the habit of blinking the facts : in his private letters it was 
Baldwin who was 'at the bottom of air 'the actual and deservedly 
acknowledged leader of the strongest party in the House, and in 
the Country'. 1 

Two days before the Assembly met Baldwin was able to 
assure La Fontaine that even the Tories would 'join in a vote of 
want of confidence without conditions'. 2 The result both in the 
Assembly and upon the Executive Council would have been con- 
clusive. On the Qth Bagot sent for La Fontaine. The negotiations 
which began on Saturday, the loth, and dragged on until the 
following Tuesday, were charged with tension. On the nth La 
Fontaine, who had been 'taken by surprise', indicated his terms 
'four places in the Council, with the admission of Mr. Baldwin/ 
Bagot offered three, including Baldwin if 'brought in by the French 
Canadian party'. On the evening of the i2th the Executive 
Council urged Bagot to offer a generous but formal 'memorandum 
of terms'; otherwise 'they must resign'. But the terms stipulated 
pensions for two of the retiring councillors whose appointments 
had been of very long standing and 'non-political*. On the 
1 3th La Fontaine 'expressed his gratitude, almost with tears 
in his eyes', but reported that 'Mr. Baldwin could not on 
principle promise to support' the pensions. At three o'clock 

1 Id. t v. 97; G. Series, 188. 158 ff. 'Confidential'. This letter was afterwards 
made 'Private*. Id. y v. 150. 
3 La Fontaine Papers, iii. 2. 

34" N n 


on Tuesday Baldwin formally moved 'that confidence is not 

reposed in His Excellency's present advisers', and the crisis had 

arrived. 1 

The daring move which forced a compromise and finally 
effected the 'Great Measure' was a master-stroke of diplomacy. 
In anticipation of such a contingency Bagot's final terms to La 
Fontaine had not been marked ' confidential' . On Tuesday evening 
Bagot authorized Draper to read these terms to the Assembly, 
while he himself sat down to write for the mail which was then 
about to close, a terse note to Stanley which is almost incandescent 
with resolution and grim humour. There is a thrust for MacNab 
'intriguing, slippery, unprincipled . . . but I shall keep faith. . . . 
Trust him I never will He too has been making a Royal Speech, 
and it was delivered before mine I enclose it for your amuse- 
ment'. 2 There was a word of hope, too, for the French 'when They 
learn, as they are at this moment doing in the Assembly, How 
abundantly large an offer Their leaders have rejected, and the 
honest spirit in which that offer was made The offer itself . . . will 
raise a prodigious outcry against me in certain quarters I care not 
for this morally I shall have gained by it. . . .1 have no reason, 
even under present failure, to repent it ' 3 Diplomacy is here 
without gloves, and for once Bagot's fine temper is down to the 
naked steel. Bagot with his flashing rapier at Alwington House 
Baldwin with his ponderous mace in the Assembly -little perhaps 
did either surmise how truly at that moment they were both 
vindicating the same cause. 

In the Assembly Bagot's daring thrust went home : 'the effect 
was almost electrical.' The following morning the negotiations 
were renewed and finally concluded in a memorandum bearing the 
names of La Fontaine and Baldwin on the one side and Harrison 
on the other. Baldwin's motion was withdrawn and an address of 
'unmixed satisfaction' with the new Cabinet (the word is Bagot's) 
was carried 55 to 5. 4 Difficulties disappeared as if by magic. 

1 Journals, Legislative Assembly, vol. ii, 1842, p. 8. 

z A shrewd thrust at Stanley himself. The 'Royal Speech' was no doubt 'his 
own vaunts of loyalty and the extravagant and absurd demonstrations made to 
him in England. . . . Your Lordship has already some insight into his character, 1 
G. Series, 188. 158 ff. 

3 'But I have not the time to explain all this I bespeak, till you hear from me 
again by the next mail, your confidence in the wisdom, and the necessity of the 
course that I have taken.' Bagot Papers, v. 97. 

4 La Fontaine Papers, in. 19. Journals, Legislative Assembly, vol. ii, 1842, 
P- 23. 


Thenceforth Bagot's letters are charged with deepening con- 
viction : 

*I am quite prepared to leave my justification ... to the accounts 
of the success of my measure which will accompany its first announce- 
ment, and will follow it in quick succession. 

I have united in my favor the mass of opinion British as well as 
French both in the House of Assembly and in the Country. . . . 

Such has been my fixed perswasion founded upon the calmest and 
most careful observation of the State of Parties, and of the Colony 
since I arrived in it. I found the Union was not completed Syden- 
ham had effected the fian^ailles the Marriage, as He very well knew, 
must be the work of His successor. . . . Upon my own responsibility 
I have decided 

If I have judged wrong ... let me urge upon you the expediency 
of disavowing it by my public recall. ... If on the other hand you 
acquiesce ... I would ask you to give me all the assistance ... in Your 
power. . . . 

An Act of Amnesty . . . would effectually mark Her Majesty's adop- 
tion of my policy, and this I would most strongly recommend as a 
wise, and now a safe measure; and I would even solicit it, as the 
most acceptable mark of Her Majesty's approval.' 1 


Bagot had still to reckon, however, with the minority in Canada 
and with Tory opinion in Great Britain. 

In Canada the fury of the old Compact party burst upon his 
head in torrents of abuse. 'I am a "radical" ', he wrote to Stanley, 
'a "puppet" an "old woman" an "apostate" and a "renegade 
descendant of Old Colonel Bagot who fell at Naseby fighting for 
his King".' 2 There were awkward obligations to be broken. Four 
of the old councillors were to vacate office. One of them David- 
son had held his post non-politically for many years. Two were 
absent, and Draper's magnanimous resignation alone was volun- 
tary. Sherwood protested against measures 'concocted and 
matured* during his absence : Bagot's counter was swift and deadly. 3 
In truth Bagot found little magnanimity on either side. A paltry 
pension or two would have paved the transition to the new system, 
but though urged by the old Executive and advocated by Hincks 
this solution came to grief upon the implacable 'principle' of Robert 

1 G. Series, 188. isSff., 'Confidential' and 'Private*; Bagot Papers, v. 131 ff. 
* Oct. 1 8, 1842, Bagot Papers, v. 164. 
3 Id., ii. 606; v. 116. 


Baldwin a characteristic of that great reformer and of the times 
in Canada which stands in unpleasant contrast to Howe's magnani- 
mity in Nova Scotia. 1 

In Great Britain the odds were more desperate, and even the 
incomparable dispatches of September 26, 1842, won but a tactical 
victory. Stanley felt comment to be 'mere guess work', and gave 
Bagot credit 'unfeignedly, for being a better judge how to play the 
game than we can be here'. 2 Their private intercourse in the 
Bagot Papers is a revelation of British public life at its best 
candid, scrupulously loyal, urbane. But Bagot was left under no 
delusions. 'A step which must have . . . immense effects upon the 
future government and destinies of Canada' had been taken 'on 
your own responsibility, and contrary to the wishes of the Home 
Government.' 'We do not disapprove your policy', wrote Stanley 
after the formal decision of the cabinet ; 'we are prepared to support 
it, and defend you/ But again and again recur the 'impressions 
at home', appearances 'to the public eye', the 'possible effect on 
other Colonies'. 'To us who know the dessous des cartes, the 
necessity is manifest enough'; to the public it must be 'demon- 
strated*. A public approval, such as Bagot had solicited, would be 
'running counter to public opinion in England'. If the Union 
could be accepted 'as a fait accompli which in the main has 
secured to them good government and the power of self-govern- 
ment ... it would, I own (added Stanley), go a long way to recon- 
cile me to the course which has been pursued'. 3 In private, one 
may believe, the comment in England was less charitable. The 
Duke of Wellington expressed his opinion with the characteristic 
vigour of a relative and an invincible Tory : 'What a fool the man 
must have been . . . and what stuff and nonsense he has written ! 
and what a bother he makes about his policy and his measures, 
when there are no measures but rolling himself and his country 
in the mire.' 4 

In the Canadian Assembly Baldwin declared his 'great princi- 
ple . . . formally and solemnly recognized by the representative of 
the crown* ; but Bagot alone perhaps was in a position to appraise 
the net results of his 'Great Measure'. Unlike Stanley or Baldwin, 

1 See Hincks's Political History, pp. 25-7. 

3 G. Series, 459. 343 ff. ; Bagot Papers, vii. 211, 'Confidential'; id. t v. 131 ff., 
'Private*. Id. t ix. 177 in reply to Bagot's letter 'at night* of Sept. 13. 
3 Id., ix. 180, 186 ff., 'Private 1 . 
* Parker, Life of Peel, iii. 382-3, quoted in Morison, op. cit., p. 250. 


Bagot had in effect a double game to play. He was between two 
fronts and he was fighting against them both. Upon both he was 
substantially successful, but his success in both instances was 
curiously paradoxical. 

In his role of moderator between Canadian radicalism and 
British toryism, Bagot 's tactical triumph over Baldwin was the 
triumph of conservatism, and no effort was spared to make it so. 
The bold stroke in the Assembly was characteristic. There was 
no vote of want of confidence, no ministerial resignation, no new 
government. The new ministry was a coalition, not a party Cabinet. 
La Fontaine was first minister in 1848, but he was a leader of a 
racial minority in 1842. None saw this more clearly than Hincks. 
'Mr. Lafontaine, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Morin, Mr. Aylwin and Mr. 
Small', he afterwards wrote, 'became members of the old Govern- 
ment, six members of which retained their offices and their pre- 
cedence, without concessions of any kind.' 1 How far the 'Great 
Measure' fell short of responsible government in its final form is 
apparent from the views not only of Stanley but of Bagot himself. 
'The keystone of my policy ', he wrote, 'was to admit the French 
as a part of, or an addition to, my old Council, and not to recon- 
struct my Council with Mr. Baldwin and the French as the staple 
of it.' ^ 

Even had Bagot lived to administer his new policy in person 
there is evidence that the same issues of patronage which led to the 
resignation of Metcalfe's ministry in 1843 were already brewing, 
and that a crisis was averted only by 'the precarious health of the 
Governor General'. Here again the stumbling-block was Baldwin's 
implacable 'principle'; 'I advise you', wrote La Fontaine, to pass 
it over for this time. '3 Tarty spirit', as Hincks remarked to La 
Fontaine, 'is about as bitter here as in any part of the world.' There 
was but too much truth in Bagot's emphatic conviction that the 
stakes of public life were 'men and not measures'. 'The struggles 
in this Country the main questions being now decided and settled 
are not so much for principle as for a share of power and place.' 4 

1 Political History, p. 27. 

1 To Stanley, Sept. 26, 1842, 'Confidential', Bagot Papers, viii (M. 164), 
229 ff. ; G. Series, 188. 158 ff. 

3 'I have made this remark That every time the Government calls you to 
power, to have the advantage of your talents and influence, their first acts have 
a tendency to destroy that very same influence with your party.' La Fontaine to 
Baldwin, Nov. 26, 1842, Baldwin Papers, i. 118. 

4 La Fontaine Papers, i. 47. G. Series, 188. 158, 'Confidential*. 


It can scarcely be doubted, therefore, that a complete * Radical' 
victory in September, 1842, might have precipitated this petty 
conflict, might have postponed a magnanimous reconciliation 
between the races, and above all might have led to an undis- 
cerning but disastrous reaction in Great Britain. It is conceivable 
that Bagot's victory for conservatism in Canada was thus a victory 
in the long run for moderation, for racial concord, and for responsi- 
ble government. 

Perhaps Bagot's victory over British conservatism was equally 
paradoxical. In one sense it was a triumph for racial re<poncilia- 
tion and, as Bagot himself did not hesitate to assert, for responsi- 
ble government. 'I am prepared', he wrote resolutely to Sherwood, 
'not to start at the discharge of Artillery which will be fired against 
this Great Measure, and when the smoke shall have cleared away, 
Victory, or I am much Mistaken, will be seen to be on the Side of 
peace and Union.' l He once rebutted Baldwin 'in the presence of 
M. Lafontaine for having travelled so unnecessarily and irregu- 
larly out of his record' in expounding his great principle, but to 
Stanley he wrote bluntly that 'whether the doctrine of responsible 
Government is openly acknowledged, or is only tacitly acquiesced 
in, virtually it exists'. 2 

On the other hand Stanley made it clear that he had nothing in 
his original instructions to 'retract or qualify'. The Government 
was committed to Bagot's ' great experiment' neatly and con- 
clusively committed and no neater exploit of diplomacy stands to 
Bagot's credit than this. But the Government was not convinced. 
The governor himself is still the minister, 'supreme and irre- 
sponsible except to the Home Government'. Unlike the Crown 
in England which 'acts avowedly and exclusively on the advice 
of its Ministers', he must 'exercise over them a salutary authority, 
and an independent controuF. It is impossible to suppose that 
Metcalfe's mission was not intended to be a demonstration of 
Stanley's advice to Bagot stiffened by reaction from the imputa- 
tions of 'surrender*. And thus while 'Bagot's victory over Canadian 
radicalism may have saved responsible government chiefly per- 
haps from itself his victory over British toryism may have pre- 
cipitated one of the most unpleasant disputes in Canadian history, 
postponing the full achievement of responsible government for 
nearly five years. 

1 Sept. 17, 1842, Bagot Papers, v. 116. * Oct. 18, 1842, id. t v. 164. 



The weeks from the * Great Measure' in September to Bagot 's 
lamented death in the following May were full of poignant ex- 
periences of painful expectancy for the dispatches from London, 
of 'incessant work and anxiety of mind', of demonstrations from a 
grateful people perhaps the most touching in Canadian history, and 
of abuse, virulent even for that day, from the Canadian Tories. 
Through the last, Bagot's growing faith carried him serenely. The 
private intercourse with Stanley, too, is altogether exemplary and 
infinitely honourable to both 'more comfort to me', wrote Bagot, 
'than you can imagine'. 1 But the scores of addresses that poured in 
from both sections of the province were 'oil and gladness'. As the 
end drew near masses were said in the churches for his recovery. 
Thirty-five years later Hincks wrote that no governor not even 
Elgin was held in more 'grateful remembrance by the French 
Canadian population'. 2 Anonymously in the Pilot , Hincks was still 
more emphatic: 'Sir Charles Bagot was I hesitate not to assert the 
most successful Governor, that ever administered the affairs of any 
British Colony enjoying representative Institutions.' 'There never 
was a man acted a nobler part ... or with more consummate 
Statesmanship. ... Sir Charles Bagot was a much more profound 
Statesman than is generally imagined.' 3 

But the same shrewd observer adds a more poignant reflection. 
While Sydenham and Metcalfe had their peerages, their official 
biographies, and all the laurels that the British government could 
bestow, it was 'only in Canada that Sir Charles Bagot's sterling 
qualities are properly appreciated'. Despite the private letters of 
loyal support and sympathy from Peel and Stanley, Bagot must 
have felt his isolation from Tory opinion in England. Even to 
Haddington the news of September came 'like a clap of Thunder', 
and he was half inclined to wish that Bagot had gone down with 
colours flying, 'more Anglica\ Hincks has recorded that 'in his 
last sad interview with his Ministers he more than once appealed 
to them "to defend his memory" '. 4 In his last letter to Peel he 
solemnly reaffirmed his faith in his 'Great Measure': 'looking 
back upon my Short administration of affairs here, and looking 
back upon it as my last act in this world. ... I do assure you that, 

1 Id., v. 247. 2 Political History, p. 29. 

3 Hincks in a letter signed 'A Canadian' in the Montreal Pilot of Aug. 16, 
1844; id., May 3, 1844. 

4 Bagot Papers^ ii. 704. Hincks, Political History t p. 30. 


up to this period, I have found no reason to regret my course/ 1 
His last official letter, written an hour before Metcalfe's arrival, 
was an appeal to his council to work out 'what might remain to be 
done gradually and temperately and in the sober spirit of a consti- 
tutional Country. . . . My reputation is in your hands, I know that 
you will all protect it I am too exhausted to say more'. 2 



Bagot's prophecy in his last letter to Peel that his 'Great Measure' 
would endure, required for its fulfilment a degree of magnanimity 
which his own 'strict impartiality' had already gone far to inspire. 
The personal regard for Bagot in the private letters of La Fontaine, 
of Girouard, of Morin, of Hincks, of Aylwin, was more than con- 
ventional confidence; it was 'affection, esteem and respect'. 'His 
uniform frankness and cordiality had so won upon his Ministers', 
wrote Hincks, 'that there was not one of them that would not have 
gone the utmost length in his power to meet and forward his 
views.' 3 The descent from this mountain of transfiguration to one 
of the most sordid political struggles in Canadian history took place 
within the space of eight months, and there was not a reputation 
on either side which did not suffer in the process. 

It is not easy to approach Metcalfe's administration in Canada 
with an open mind. The fulsome pages of his official biographer 
the antediluvian politics, the travesty upon the austere principles 
and character of Robert Baldwin have left Metcalfe himself in- 
volved in the same narrow and invincible prejudices. 4 And so in 

1 Bagot Papers, v. 318. 

1 Bagot to Aylwin, Mar. 29, 1843, Bagot Papers, v. 325. 

Cf. Murdock to Bagot, Oct. 18, 1842: 'I very much doubt how far Lord 
Stanley is really alive to the real state of Canada, and to the necessity of govern- 
ing through the Assembly. . . . Will it not be the proudest satisfaction to feel that 
this success you have obtained not only without the support, but in spite of the 
discouragement of those who should have assisted you and will it not attach 
the people of Canada still more firmly and generously to your Excellency to 
know that for their sakes you have taken on yourself this great responsibility 
and have braved the disapproval of your immediate Superior.' Bagot Papers, 
ii. 676 ff. 

3 The Pilot, Aug. 16, 1844. Cf. La Fontaine Papers, vol. viii, Cherrier to La 
Fontaine, Nov. 17, 1842; iii. 26, 30, &c. La Fontaine more than once inter- 
vened to temper the gaucheries of the Canadian press. 

4 Life and Correspondence of Charles, Lord Metcalfe, John William Kaye, 
2 vols., Lond., 1854. 


truth he was. But there is much to be said on the other side, and 
Kaye himself has not exaggerated Metcalfe's homely and simple 
virtues. No more resolute martyr to duty ever devoted to the 
Empire, as he conceived it, a lifetime of unremitting toil from 
his departure for India at fifteen years of age, 'a prey to anxiety and 
dejection', to his last official appearance in Canada, in his darkened 
room, half-blind with cancer, volunteering to his Tory councillors 
to die at his post if they felt themselves unable to cope with their 
enemies without him. 

Metcalfe came to Canada with a reputation for advanced liberal- 
ism in theory but with a genius in practice for rigid officialdom. 
The son of an East-India director, he had left England in 1800, and 
he returned to Fern Hill thirty-seven years later, the champion of 
honest administration at Hyderabad, the liberator of the Indian 
press, an administrator, as Gibbon Wakefield afterwards wrote, 
who appeared to love labour for its own sake. He had spurned the 
playing-fields at Eton, and it is on record that he spent his first 
week and a half in Canada without stirring from the house for 
exercise or relaxation. With a fortune of 100,000 he had looked 
forward, with a nabob's predilection, to a seat in the House of 
Commons, but in June, 1839, Normanby in Melbourne's admin- 
istration had called upon him to undertake the government of 
Jamaica. His success there in conciliating an Assembly that was 
still resentful of Whig policy for the emancipation of the slaves- 
was such that Buller and Wakefield and Bagot himself regarded 
him as 'unicus homo' for the task in Canada. 1 

It was one of Metcalfe's infirmities however, that the kindliness 
and indulgence which he lavished in private life seldom graced his 
official intercourse. His benevolence to his intimate friends was 
boundless. His closest relatives his sister Mrs. Smythe in England 
and the family of Captain Higginson, his secretary, who accom- 
panied him to Canada moved within a charmed circle of indul- 
gent affection. Higginson himself came to be known in Canada 
as 'the everlasting Secretary'. But Metcalfe's public infirmities 
were in many respects the counterparts of his private virtues. He 
once described himself as 'from my infancy inclined to be a re- 
cluse'. The stiffness and reserve of his first encounter with Peel 
must have been characteristic. 2 His unfitness for parliamentary 

1 La Fontaine Papers, v. 8, 16, &c. Bagot Papers, iv. 295, 318, &c. 
> Kaye, Life, 11.432,451. 
34" O O 


life with its compromises and casual contacts was self-confessed. 
* There is no chance', he wrote, 'for a man who is ... totally dis- 
qualified to be a demagogue; shrinks like a sensitive plant from 
public meetings ; and cannot bear to be drawn from close retire- 
ment, except by what comes in the shape of real or fancied duty 
to his country.' His Whig friends in England found him 'a little 
intractable', and reluctant to draw upon * either the purse or the 
pride of the Nabob'. 1 

In Canada Metcalfe's official manner must have been unfortun- 
ate. He afterwards assured Stanley that he always took, pains to 
suppress his 'feelings of disapprobation' against his councillors, 
though when the crisis came he admitted that there had always 
been an antipathy between them which prevented his 'sympathis- 
ing with them'. 2 Long before the crisis of November, 1843, Met- 
calfe was popularly known in Kingston as 'Old Squaretoes'. 
Sullivan's name for him was 'Charles the Simple', and even Kaye 
admits that he was no 'tactician'. Bagot and Elgin, with that subtle 
alchemy in which both excelled, gave their confidence upon 
principle. Metcalfe did not subscribe to their principles, and his 
own downright honesty formed a barrier of reserve which seemed 
to imply a latent hostility from the outset. It was Dunn's convic- 
tion that Metcalfe was 'either stupid or cunning'. Adam Fergusson 
wrote to Howe in Nova Scotia of Bagot's engaging frankness: 'he 
knew mankind.' But at the first interview with Metcalfe he 
'immediately saw his hostility' to responsible government from 
his 'sneering emphasis upon the term'. 3 So much for the defects 
of the gubernatorial manner. Even Gibbon Wakefield whose 
opinions, like his quarrel with the Reformers at this time, are 
usually riddled with self-interest and personalities, wrote to Met- 
calfe's intimate friend Mangles in October, 1843, that there were 
'some black clouds ahead'. Bagot's policy had proved completely 
successful, and the opposition had 'done little more than harp on 
the worn-out strings of disaffection and loyalty'. The attitude of 
the ministers before the country was exemplary 'no lies, no 
tricks, no shuffling, but many indications of honesty of purpose, 
to which they add a decorum and even dignity of manner, unex- 
ampled ... in both divisions of the Province.' Metcalfe too was 
conscientious, single-minded, and 'as worthy of love and admira- 
tion, as you ever told me he was ; but . . . the long habit of exercis- 

1 Kaye, Life, ii. 455, 357-8. a G. Series, 460. in. 3 Howe Papers, i. 114. 


ing a paternal despotism makes it difficult for him to comprehend 
the nature and consequences of the representative system. . . . 
I imagine it is this habit, combined with a strong sense of duty, 
which leads him to work like a slave at all sorts of matters of 
detail. . . . He might as well try to drink Ontario dry. . . . The 
faculty of quick rough-and-ready penetration the clever attorney's 
faculty has been absorbed in the nobler qualities.' Metcalfe 
would find it difficult to be a ' Governor of zParliamented country', 
for no attempt 'to rule with his own hand' could possibly succeed. 
*I have a profound conviction', added Wakefield, 'that such an 
attempt must utterly fail.' 1 


The province which Metcalfe had come to 'govern' was beset by 
tendencies still more dangerous and far less tractable. The be- 
ginnings of self-government have seldom moderated the elemental 
weaknesses of human nature. The crudities of Canadian politics, 
the turbulence of faction, the insatiable appetite for 'jobs', had 
grown with the hungry years of official exclusion. In urging 'the 
strictest impartiality' as the only safe rule for Metcalfe in Canada 
Bagot had conceded that nothing could be much lower or more 
discouraging than the character and moral standards of public* 
life. 2 He had sought to exorcize the evil spirit by an appeal to 
magnanimity and 'the sober spirit of a constitutional Country'; 
but once the charm was broken, the evil spirit, finding the house 
swept and garnished, returned with seven other spirits more 
wicked than himself. Baldwin, the 'sea-green incorruptible' of 
Canadian politics, moved austerely in the rarefied atmosphere 
of his implacable 'principle'; but others were less squeamish, and 
with the deluge of Irish 'repealers' now pouring into the province, 
the turbulence of political life became a byword. Hincks sub- 
scribed bluntly to the principle that the distribution of patronage 
was one of the chief means of securing the active support of the 
friends of government and of weakening their opponents: 'A 
government that should neglect to avail itself of this power could 
not long exist .' 3 More pernicious than 'the universal thirst for 

1 Wakefield to R. D. Mangles, Oct. n, 1843, in A View of Sir Charles 
Metcalfe' s Government of Canada, by a Member of the Provincial Parliament. 
a Bagot to Stanley, Feb. 23, 1843, Bagot Papers, v. 295. 
3 The Ministerial Crisis, by a Reformer of 1836, Kingston, 1844. 


place', as Bagot called it, was the personal abusiveness of the pi 
Even in 1877 Hincks, who could speak with authority, stated 
the public men of Metcalfe's day 'had to endure an amoun 
odium of which those of the present day have only a faint id 
Many of these evils the ministers themselves were powerles 
control or indeed to resist. La Fontaine, whose restraint Mete 
himself conceded, was deluged with letters, some comment 
his moderation and some of a different temper. ' Je crains qu'il 
ait parmi nous', wrote Cherrier, *des personnes qui exigerom 
Cabinet plus qu'il ne peut faire'. 'Je 1'ai dit souvent,' he ad< 
'et je le repute, le patronage que vous avez & exercer sera sou^ 
un ecueuil pour vous, et cela parce que'il y a de gens trop exigean 
Worse than the embarrassment of the ministers would be the e1 
of faction upon the temper of British toryism. Gibbon Wakei 
wrote to La Fontaine from London that there was an impres 
abroad of 'revolutionary or rebellious tendencies': 

'Time is indispensable for the removal of this most false impress 
and not only time, but patience and great moderation. . . . VI 
you have most carefully to avoid is the giving of weapons to ) 
enemies to wound you with here. . . . May you all bear in n 
the saying of your illustrious namesake " Patience et longueui 
temps font plus que force ni quc rage "! ... It is but little H 
that the Imperial Government has to concede.* 3 

In such a setting, the prepossessions both Stanley's and 
own which Metcalfe brought to Canada were charged with r 
chief. Kaye writes of his mission to 'rescue another colony fi 
impending destruction'. Metcalfe himself wrote that he 'm 
undertook anything with so much reluctance, or so little hopi 
doing good'. 4 Buller and Wakefield, with a shrewd suspicior 
domination from Downing Street, conveyed to Metcalfe a caul 
to exact 'stipulations' and 'certain powers to act' there v 
'essential steps . . . which ... he ought to have power to ta 
But this was not Metcalfe's conception of the Empire or 

1 Political History, p. 35. 

3 'Pour moi je ne craindrais rien tant que de nous voir exposes a perdi 
que nous avons gagneV Feb. 12, 1843, La Fontaine Papers, vol. viii. Id., 1 
3, 1843. 

3 Jan. 2, 1843- Id., v. 8 ff. 

4 Life, ii. 453. Metcalfe to Mangles, Jan. 22, 1843, id., ii. 459. Cf. Meti 
to Mrs. Smythe, Jan. ai, 1843 : 'Never was a man dragged into public emp 
ment more against his will.' Id., ii. 459. 


colonial governance: 'it is impossible*, he replied, 'to stipulate 
that they shall not control the Government of a colony'. In truth 
Metcalfe required no instructions from Downing Street with 
regard to 'the class of men to fall back upon' in Canada. It was not 
long before he was exhorting the Colonial Secretary himself to 
firmness in support of 'loyalty' against 'revolutionary opinions'. 1 
The Queen's representative, he found, was required not to govern 
but to be a 'nullity' merely a 'tool' in the hands of 'the Revolu- 
tionary party', distributing even the patronage of the Crown 'for 
the purchase of support and the confirmation and perpetuation 
of their own power and the reduction of that of Her Majesty's 
Government'. 'The men who can advance these pretensions', he 
added, 'must be reckless as to the consequences. ... I therefore 
regard their faint profession of a desire to perpetuate their con- 
nexion of this Colony with the Mother Country, as utterly 

The inference was obvious. Majority or no majority, responsible 
government or no responsible government, 'the only thing certain 
is that I cannot yield'. 'I cannot submit, for that would be to 
surrender the Queen's Government into the hands of rebels, and 
to become myself their ignominious tool.' 'Whether my contest 
be with a malignant Minority, or with a Majority of the House of 
Assembly, or with the whole Colony run mad, my duty must be 
the same. I cannot surrender Her Majesty's Authority, of the 
supremacy of the Mother Country.'- There is much truth in 
Elgin's shrewd comment in 1852. 'The distinction', he wrote, 
'between Lord Metcalfe 's policy and mine is twofold. In the first 
place he profoundly distrusted the whole Liberal party in the 
province. . . . He believed its designs to be revolutionary. . . . And, 
secondly, he imagined that when circumstances forced the party 
upon him, he could check these revolutionary tendencies by mani- 
festing his distrust of them, more especially in the matter of the 
distribution of patronage/ 3 

1 Id. y ii, 454, 459- 'One of the difficulties ... is want of confidence in the 
Firmness of Her Majesty's Government, on the part of those who have proved 
their desire to support Her Majesty's Authority.' 'No assurance that Her 
Majesty's Government will not ultimately . , . leave them to be sacrificed.* 
'Distrust of the steady adherence of Her Majesty's Government.' 'Being the 
result of past experience, it can only be obliterated by consistent conduct of an 
opposite character.' Apr. 15, 1844, G. Series, 460. 302 ff. 

* Id., 460. 278 ff., 291 ff. ; Kaye's Life, ii. 528, note. 

3 Elgin to Grey, Oct. 8, 1852, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 



The tragedies of history, it has been said, have frequently been 
the conflicts not between right and wrong but between right and 
right: and it may be added, between wrong and wrong. For 
sterling character dedicated to public duty there have been few 
peers of Mctcalfe on the one side and Baldwin or La Fontaine 
on the other. It is impossible to read their intimate papers without 
the conviction that they were honourable men 'all honourable 
men'. Yet they met in Canada to impugn not only eacfi other's 
motives but each other's honour, and to part in deadly enmity 
an object lesson surely for more charity and magnanimity in 
interpreting those indefinable 'loyalties 5 which go to make up the 
British Commonwealth. 

Beyond a doubt these mutual recriminations, however ground- 
less, were made in good faith. Metcalfe is less prodigal than Head 
or Simcoe with such terms as 'rebel', 'republican', and 'Revolu- 
tionary party', but it is impossible to doubt his conviction that 
what he called 'British supremacy' was in peril. It is impossible 
on the other hand to discount the settled conviction in the La Fon- 
taine and Baldwin Papers the conviction of men whose honour 
survives the pestilential atmosphere of 1844 as unsullied as that 
of Metcalfe himself- that the governor or the governor's secretary 
was playing a double game by 'plotting against his ministry' : 
that while solemnly subscribing to the resolution of September 3, 
1 84 1, he was bent upon using the patronage of the Crown on behalf 
of their political adversaries. La Fontaine once remarked bitterly 
that 'every time the Government calls you to power, to have the 
advantage of your talents and influence, their first acts have a 
tendency to destroy that very same influence with your party'. 1 
As late as October n, 1843, Wakefield himself had written of 
ministers 'dragged through the dirt of bearing heavy blame which 
they do not deserve'; 2 and assuredly La Fontaine's suspicions 
would scarcely have been allayed had he seen some of the letters 
which Metcalfe was writing to Stanley within a month of his 
arrival in Canada. He was 'condemned ... to carry on the Govern- 
ment to the utter exclusion of those on whom the Mother Country 

1 To Baldwin, Baldwin Papers, i. 118. 

* Wakefield to Mangles, Oct. u, 1843, A View of Sir Charles Metcalfe' s 


might confidently rely in the hour of need', and there seemed to 
be no remedy 'without setting at defiance the operation of re- 
sponsible administration which has been introduced into this 
Colony'. 1 

, I conceive (he wrote in May), is the first time when the scheme 
of Responsible Government, as here construed, has come forward to 
be carried fully into effect in any colony. Lord Durham had no 
difficulty in writing at leisure in praise of Responsible Government. 
. . . For the greater part of (Lord Sydenham's) administration it had 
no existence, and was only coming into operation when he died. . . . 
Responsible Government, as understood by its extreme advocates, is 
said to be Sir Charles Bagot's policy; but ... he had not the least 
intention of surrendering his power into their hands; and for the 
remainder of his time the contest was staved off by his illness. . . . 
Now comes the tug of war. . . . 

The sole question is, to describe it without disguise, whether the 
Governor shall be solely and completely a tool in the hands of the 
Council ---- 1 must be prepared for the consequences of a rupture ---- 
I cannot consent to be the tool of a party, and to proscribe all those 
who defended their party in the hour of need against foreign invasion 
and internal rebellion/ 2 

As the session approached suspicions multiplied. It is clear that 
the activities of Higginson 'the everlasting Secretary* who had 
come to Canada with a reputation for the 'management of all the 
niceties' of a 'ticklish Legislature* in Jamaica 3 was deeply 
resented. 'It is notorious', wrote Hincks after the crisis, 'that . . . 
the Private Secretary has discharged more of the functions of a 
Minister of the Crown than any one of the really responsible 

1 Apr. 25, 1843, Kaye, Selections from the Papers of Lord Metcalfe, Lond., 
1855, p. 407. 

Cf. Metcalfe to Stanley, Apr. 24, 1843, Life, ii. 428: 'The Council are now 
spoken of by themselves and others generally as "the Ministers", "the Admin- 
istration", "the Cabinet", "the Government", and so forth. Their pretensions 
are according to this new nomenclature. They regard themselves as a responsible 

* Metcalfe to Stanley, May 12, 1843. Life, ii. 478 ff., 494. Cf. Metcalfe to 
Stanley, May 24, 1844, G. Scries, 337 fF: 'Such a system of Government appears 
to me to be utterly inadmissible in a Colony ... if for no other reason, because 
it might so happen that all the powers of the Government . . . might be sur- 
rendered to a disaffected Party hostile in Spirit to the Crown and the Mother 

3 Stanley to Bagot, May 17, 1842, Bagot Papers, ix. 60 fT. Higginson was 
afterwards made joint Private and Civil Secretary independent of the Legisla- 
ture. G. Series, 460. 150. 


Ministers/ 1 In May an interview between La Fontaine and 
Higginson was characteristically interpreted by Metcalfe to Stanley, 
and was recorded by La Fontaine in vastly different terms. 2 
La Fontaine, it is clear, held that while the governor was not 
bound to accept the advice of his council, he was bound to ask it 
in order that they might resign if they 'did not choose to assume 
the responsibility of the act that the Governor wished to perform 
contrary to their advice'. This Metcalfe described in terms which 
the Reformers read with astonishment when Stanley afterwards 
quoted them to the House during the crisis as 'the complete 
nullification of her Majesty's Government. . . . Failing of sub- 
mission to those stipulations, I am threatened with the resignation 
of Mr. Lafontaine.' Thus as early as May, 1843, are to be found 
the fixed ideas and indeed the very formulae endlessly reiterated 
throughout the Metcalfe crisis the governor a 'reluctant and 
passive tool in the hands of a party for the purpose of proscribing 
their opponents', 'solely and completely a tool in the hands of the 
Council', 'the tool of a party ... to proscribe all those who de- 
fended their party in the hour of need against foreign invasion and 
internal rebellion'. 'This question filled Metcalfe's mind', says 
Kaye: 'What . . . was to become of the Governor- General?' 3 

The tragedy of this was that there were more hopeful signs; 
though the healing of mutual confidence, to be sure, was scarcely 
to be wrought by men of little faith. Bagot had begged an amnesty 
for political offences as his only reward for the 'Great Measure'. 
Amnesty was granted, but its quality was strained. It was granted 
piecemeal and grudgingly, and not as Bagot himself most assuredly 
would have bestowed it, like the gentle rain from heaven. Metcalfe 
dutifully advocated 'entire forgetfulness of past offences against 
the State' as a 'healing measure in this Province', but he could not 
forbear adding that it was 'provoking to find that those who claim 

1 The Ministerial Crisis, by a Reformer of 1836, Kingston, 1844. Cf. La Fon- 
taine to Baldwin, May 25, 1844, Baldwin Papers, i. 15 : 'The idea of the Gover- 
nor's Private Secretary intriguing with Members to defeat a Government 
Measure . . . ! ! I see nothing so revolting to the feeling of a man of honor 
The fact is that the Governor, without perhaps being sensible of it, is com- 
pletely under the influence of Capt. Higginson.' 

3 Life, ii. 493 ff. ; Hincks, Reminiscences, Montreal, 1884, p. 93. 

3 'At the nominal head of this Government-by-a-party in England was the 
wearer of a crown, who might be a child, a woman, or an imbecile old man, 
not expected to do, but to be whilst at the head of this Responsible Govern- 
ment, or Government-by-a-party, in Canada, was one of the ablest statesmen 
that the mother country could send forth . . . for the post of the chief ruler of 
our North- American possessions.' Life, ii. 476, 480, 494. 


amnesty for rebels and brigands, with whom to a certain extent 
they sympathised, are inveterate in their hostility to those who 
were faithful to their Sovereign and country*/ The death of Bagot 
in May, as Metcalfe himself reported, was 'lamented by all 
Classes . . . of this Province', but no attempt is visible to translate 
a common sorrow altogether unprecedented in Canada into healing 
for the deadly feuds of faction. The official tours of the province 
through which Bagot had laboured with incomparable humour in 
order to 'smooth my path hereafter' 'the pomps and circum- 
stances attendant upon the great station (for such it is) of top- 
sawyer in these woods' were dutifully undertaken by Metcalfe. 
'I do not anticipate any particular public benefit/ he wrote, 'but 
something of the sort has been customary and seems to be ex- 
pected, and possibly some useful information may be obtained.' 
Condemned to 'toil on to no purpose in the Slough of Despond', 
with 'no prospect of either public good or personal credit', 
Metcalfe prepared to meet the Assembly in September. As 'the 
tug of war' approached, hope failed, but duty remained. About 
him raged the feud between 'Tories and Family- Compact men' 
and 'Republicans and Rebels', 'the wars of the ins and the outs', 
the virulence of Orangemen and Repealers. 'I have made up my 
mind (he wrote) to utter failure. . . . Hope I have none, not even 
of escape.' 'I fear that the whole concern is rotten at the core.' 2 


The long-expected crisis came on November 25. In the con- 
flict which followed probably the bitterest of its kind in Canadian 
history the antagonists could scarcely have been more hopelessly 
at cross-purposes had they been dealing with completely different 
sets of facts. 

The charges of aggression were mutual. Hincks and Girouard 
always maintained that Stanley had sent Metcalfe to Canada 'to 
overthrow Responsible Government' ; and it is true that as early 
as May Metcalfe felt he 'must be prepared for the consequences 
of a rupture'. 3 Wakefield charged the Reformers with forcing the 
whole issue as a party manoeuvre, but it must be conceded that 

1 G. Series, 188. 158; id., 460. 47, 48, &c. ; Life, ii. 494. 

2 Bagot to Grenville, Mar. 27, 1842, Bagot Papers, vol. iv; G. Series, 460. 
40; Life, ii. 499, 500, 505. 

3 Political History, p. 29 ; Girouard to La Fontaine, Dec. i, 1843, La Fontaine 
Papers, vol. viii: 'L'expression . . . des caprices d'un satrape delgu6 . . . Vous 
<5tiez trop vertueux!' Life, ii. 493. 

311* p p 


his own letters suggest the contrary. As late as October 27 Wake- 
field himself had no objection to a 'Ministerial crisis . . . could 
I but be sure that the Governor General would pick well his ground 
of quarrel*. Two weeks later he wrote that 'Sir Charles will come 
to an open rupture with them ere long*, and a fortnight later, on 
the very day of the crisis, he regretted that Metcalfe had had 'the 
opportunity of breaking with his Ministers on tenable ground, but 

seems to have let it slip I am unwilling to do him the bad turn 

of shooting the bird which I suppose him to be aiming at from 
behind the hedge. . . . But if he don't fire I must/ 1 

There can be no doubt also that Stanley, like Metcalfe himself, 
was 'prepared for the consequences of a rupture*. In a private 
letter which arrived only a few hours after the crisis, Stanley had 
shown an uncanny 'prescience of what was going on* : 

'On one point I am sure it is necessary that you should be firm I 
mean in the disposal of Patronage. ... If you let your Council take it 
out of your hands, they will at once strengthen a party already too 
compact and powerful, and tend to reduce your authority, as I doubt 
not they would desire, to a nullity. I believe this to be entirely in 
accordance with your views; and you may rely upon my support. ' z 

On the other hand it is clear that La Fontaine and Baldwin 
deliberately forced the issue and carried it through with complete 
confidence in their cause and its immediate success. Again and 
again Metcalfe assured Stanley that he 'always took pains to avoid' 
a quarrel; that he 'bore and forbore much rather than incur the 
evils of a rupture* : 

'Never I conceive did men act more wantonly to do mischief. 
Responsible Government was in full play. Politicians who came from 
the other Colonies were astonished at the extent to which it was 
carried. ... I went along with them in the measures which they pre- 
pared to a degree which none perhaps but themselves approved. 
Things being in this state they suddenly make a demand of which the 
object is ... the entire subserviency of Her Majesty's Government to 
their Party Views. 

Had the Leaders . . . been contented with the practical working of 
Responsible Government without the degradation of Her Majesty's 
Representative to the condition of a mere Tool in their hands the 
Country would not have been troubled with the present dispute. But 

1 Wakefield to Mangles, Oct. 27, Nov. n, Nov. 25, 1843. A View of Sir 
Charles Metcalfe's Government in Canada. 

1 Pub. Arch. Can., Metcalfe Papers, p. u. [Lent by the Earl of Derby, 
Knowsley, Lanes.] 


that being their settled object they no doubt thought that the Time 
had arrived when by the aid of a large Majority in the Assembly they 
could accomplish it/ 1 

In truth the governor's obvious unpreparedness, his lack of 
tactical finesse, the long months of toil in reorganizing his council, 
and finally the sympathy which undoubtedly rallied to his support 
in his desperate struggle to carry on the government, all stand in 
contrast to the early confidence of the Reformers. * Depend upon 
it', wrote Hincks, ' Upper Canada is perfectly safe. They must be 
begotten [sic] fools to think otherwise/ Dunn promised to bring 
Canada West against the governor 'like a clap of Thunder. ... He 
must go to school again, and learn of the schoolmaster who is 
abroad in Canada/ 'Although an Oriental', wrote Derbishire, 'Sir 
Charles is not versed in the game of Chess, which requires that 
before making a move one should be prepared with its successor/ 2 

As it happened, the Radicals themselves might perhaps have 
improved their play by taking the longer view, for it was Metcalfe, 
as we shall see, who won the first game. Moderates like Harrison 
drew back and eventually dropped from the ranks. Sympathizers 
like Isaac Buchanan ranged themselves in open opposition, and, 
despite the best offices of Howe in Nova Scotia, were finally lost 
to the Reform party. 3 'Cacodaemon' Wakefield, the 'arch-traitor', 
they affected to regard as no great loss an egregious miscalcula- 
tion belied by a w r hole train of Wakefield's wily strategy. But the 
alienation of Charles Buller was a disaster. No sounder or more 
pervasive influence for responsible government was to be found on 
either side of the Atlantic. Joseph Howe, too, in Nova Scotia, in 
an unguarded moment, dropped the word 'bungled'; and though 
he made amends handsomely in his letter to Hincks in the Montreal 
Pilot, he added that there had been 'no instance in three years' of 
a conflict over patronage in Nova Scotia. 'If you, having all this 
in practice, desire to press the theory to an inconveniently strict 
definition, you may be acting unwisely/ 4 'Responsible Govern- 

1 Metcalfe to Stanley, Mar. 26, Apr. 15, 1844. G. Series, 460. 278 ff., 302 ff. 

1 Hincks to La Fontaine, Dec. 29, 1843; Dunn to La Fontaine, Dec. 22, 
1843; Derbishire to La Fontaine, Mar. 25, 1844. La Fontaine Papers , i. 161 ff. ; 
v. 22 ff. ; vol. vi, &c. 

3 'Why should you and Baldwin differ? If you and I agree, he and you ought 
not to be divided ; and if Sir Charles Metcalfe is the man I take him for, a little 
tact and good temper would bring you all into line.' Howe to Buchanan, Aug. 
31, 1844, Howe Papers, vi. 72. 

* 'But of this the people of Canada are the legitimate judges.' Speeches and 
Public Letters of Joseph Howe, ed. Chisholm, i. 485. 


ment,' he wrote to Buchanan, 'is a very simple affair as simple 
as matrimony, but those husbands and wives get on the best, who 
respect each others' rights and say as little as possible about them/ 1 
In Canada the Metcalfe crisis threw Egerton Ryerson and his 
responsive following into the arms of the governor, lost the bitter- 
est election of that generation, sacrificed an overwhelming majority 
in the Assembly, and sent the Reformers into opposition for four 
years. What could have been the issue to warrant such an array 
of risks and political disasters ? 

Unfortunately the facts as well as the motives were drawn into 
dispute. There had been friction over three or four appointments 
clerks of the peace of the Bathurst and Dalhousie districts, an 
aide to the governor, and rumours of the governor's favour else- 
where though as Sullivan afterwards conceded, the actual 
'appointments certainly were trifling'. On Friday, November 24, 
La Fontaine and Baldwin waited upon Metcalfe to demand that 
'he should agree to make no appointment, and no offer of an 
appointment, without previously taking the advice of the Council ; 
that the lists of Candidates should, in every instance, be laid before 
the Council ; . . . and that the Governor General . . . should not 
make any appointment prejudicial to their influence'. 2 But the 
demand, wrote Metcalfe, ' clearly meant more than it verbally ex- 
pressed*. It would have 'prostrated the Governor at their feet', 
reduced him to 'nullity', a 'tool' of faction. On the following day 
a discussion in full council 'elicited different views' of responsible 
government: the proposals were repeated 'over and over again', 
and the governor's 'refusal was each time followed by "then we 
must resign" '. Here at last was the tug of war ; and that evening 
Metcalfe wrote to Stanley that with one exception the whole 
Executive Council had resigned. 3 

In truth the governor single-handed was no match at this sort 
of dialectic for the keenest minds on that particular theme any- 
where to be found at that time Baldwin with his implacable 

1 Howe Papers, vi. 72. 

1 Metcalfe's statement, in Journals of the Assembly, vol. iii, 1843, p. 182. 
According to Hincks, Metcalfe's system 'was calculated to destroy the political 
influence of the ministry, and they were compelled to ... come to an under- 
standing with His Excellency*. Hincks maintained that 'the Secretary should be 
a responsible minister*, and that the lists of candidates should be deposited with 
him 'and not with the Private Secretary to the Governor*. The Ministerial Crisis. 

3 Metcalfe to Stanley, Nov. 26, 1843, G. Series t 460. 1 10 ; Metcalfe's draft of 
statement for the Assembly in Life, ii. 525. 


'principle', La Fontaine's Constance', the nimble shrewdness of 
Hincks, the wit of Sullivan. It is reasonable to suppose that 
Metcalfe's ingenuous arguments of Saturday claimed more than 
he was prepared to defend. 1 Anticipating a charge of opposing 
responsible government, and 'in order to counteract such an inten- 
tion', he requested La Fontaine 'to put in writing the grounds of 
their resignation'. This was impugned by Metcalfe because it 
omitted the 'real grounds of their resignation' the * stipulation' 
that the * patronage of the Crown should be surrendered to the 
Council for the purchase of Parliamentary support'. To Stanley, 
however, he observed less guardedly that La Fontaine's 'most 
disingenuous production' was based upon 'differences . . . which 
had been expressed in the freedom of conversation . . . and were 
therefore very unfairly used'. 2 Indeed how it was possible to avow 
the resolutions of 1841 with the reservations which Metcalfe 
habitually made to Stanley not merely against a 'malignant 
Minority' but against a possible majority in the Assembly and if 
necessary against 'the whole Colony run mad' is one of the 
marvels of logic. To La Fontaine the thing was inexplicable, and 
the terms applied to Metcalfe by the Reformers ranged from 
'stupid' and 'simple' to 'cunning', 'hypocritical' and worse. 3 
'BonDieu!' exclaimed Girouard. 'Ces gens-l& sont clone sourds 
& aveugles.' 4 Metcalfe's letters, too, official as well as private, 
were equally uncomplimentary. Baldwin was 'not scrupulous ' ; 
his professions of attachment to the mother country in the Reform 
Association were 'utterly worthless', while MacNab's 'gallant 
energy ... in putting down Rebellion' deserved 'any reward that 
can be bestowed'. The explanations of the ex-councillors were 
'gross misrepresentations'; their pretensions were 'monstrous', 

1 'He did not disguise his opinion that these affairs would be more satis- 
factorily managed by and through the Governor himself, without the necessity 
of concord amongst the Members of the Executive Council, or obligation on 
their part to defend, or support in Parliament the Acts of the Governor.' La 
Fontaine's statement in Journals, vol. 3, 1843, p. 182. 

Metcalfe to Stanley, Nov. 26, Dec. n, 1843, G. Series, 460. no, in. 

3 Cf. La Fontaine to Baldwin, Dec. 2, 1845, 'Private': 'Lord Metcalfe is 
gone ! ! Let his friends praise him as much as they please But as to myself, 
I will always look upon him as a man who had no respect for truth, not to use 
a harsher word. I may forgive any thing but a lie.' Baldwin Papers, i. 81. 

La Fontaine's personal estimates with a few conspicuous exceptions Bald- 
win's 'noble character, public and private' among them are almost uniformly 
uncharitable, sometimes egregiously so. Cf. Baldwin Papers, i. 15 ff., 24, 33, 64, 
76, 90, &c. * La Fontaine Papers, vol. viii. 


and proceeded from 'inconceivable blindness or ignorance'. 
Metcalfe was willing to hope that La Fontaine was 'out of his 
Element in haranguing an Irish mob ', and that Morin was not 
guilty of the 'grossly false* statements in the Minerve and the Pilot ; 
but he had a different opinion of Hincks. 'Ruffianlike proceedings' 
would be met with firmness. The Tory press added that Hincks 
was a 'Villainous Liar', a 'Pennyless Vagabond', a 'Cowardly 
Blackguard', and a master of 'cool and steady villainy'. 1 


Into such a welter of vituperation the province now sank for the 
election of 1844. Daly who alone remained of the old executive 
was ill a 'Parliamentary complaint* one of his old colleagues un- 
charitably suggested and it was necessary for Metcalfe to struggle 
on as best he could till the close of the session on December 9. 
A fortnight later Draper and Viger were added as 'a Provisional 
Council', and the 'staff work' of the governor's party for so it 
soon came to be described responded to new talent. 'Public 
Business', wrote Metcalfe in March, 'proceeds as well generally 
as if the Council were complete.' 2 

But the personnel of the new staff and their associates must 
have created consternation at Downing Street. Dunn describes the 
ubiquitous activity of Gibbon Wakefield 'who report says is the 
Governor General in fact and in deed. . . . He appears to have taken 
possession of the Public Office. I find him in and out the whole 
day long'. 3 Scarcely more than a year had passed since Stanley had 
denounced 'Cacodaemon' Wakefield to Bagot and had refused to 
see him in London. 4 Metcalfe 's choice of French councillors, too, 

1 G. Series, 460. 291, 267, 365, 337, 300, 312; Pilot, Apr, 16, 1844. 

3 G. Series, 460. 126, 268 if. ' 

^ Dunn to La Fontaine, Dec. 22, 1843, La Fontaine Papers, \. 22. 

* Bagot, who coined the nickname, had shared Stanley's antipathies, and 
resented particularly the report that the 'Great Measure' was 'CacodaemonV. 
Wakefield, it seems, was prepared to 'admit the soft impeachment'. Cf. Bagot to 
Stanley, Sept. 26, 1842: 'Wakefield has been up here during nearly the whole 
period in which they (the negotiations with. La Fontaine) were carrying on but 
I have never seen him, or had any, the most indirect communication with him.' 
Oct. 12, 1842 : 'He will endanger the complexion of my whole measure, and give 
colour to the report that, notwithstanding the scrupulous care which I took to 
avoid all communication whatever with him during my negotiations with the 
French Canadians, he was the real mover, and contriver of them all Nothing, 
so far as I am concerned, can be more unfounded than such a notion.' Nov. n, 
1842 : ' I wish you could contrive to keep him at home, or tell him that he is sadly 
wanted in Australia.' Dec. 27, 1842 : 'I am rejoiced that you have resolved not 
to see Cacodaemon Nothing will more effectually contradict the lie that he 
has been in my confidence, and that I desire to employ him but it may be as 


have startled Downing Street. The first to be approached 
Girouard 1 whose 'loyalty' Stanley himself had thought too 
ionable to appear in a mandamus from the Queen. Girouard 
3een in arms during the Papineau rising with a reward of 
'offered and paid for his apprehension'. The appointment 
y went to Viger whom Stanley had still more expressly barred 
ise he had been 'imprisoned on a charge of treason', and was 
riously' wanting in loyalty and attachment to the British con- 
n. z It was September, 1844, before Metcalfe was able to 
ance a full Executive Council. No fewer than six candidates 
led the office of Attorney- General of Lower Canada. Sher- 
, Morris, and D. B. Papineau, brother of Louis Joseph him- 
completed the strangest administration surely since the 
.ered and speckled and tesselated and whimsically dove- 
cabinet which Burke attributed to Chatham, 
the war of dialectics the Reformers were superbly armed, but 
jsults were inconclusive. Wakefield's Letter on the Ministerial 
brought a chorus of rage from the Reformers 'Mensonge, 
>tion, duperie, moquerie.' Viger \s charges also in La Crise 
terielle, that La Fontaine's public 'epice d'expose' was a viola- 
)f their oaths of office as Executive Councillors, so far went 
that La Fontaine had to apply more than once to Baldwin 
ecedents. 3 Egerton Ryerson barbed the accusation by citing 
lonourable and constitutional conduct of the ex-Counsellors 
ova Scotia'. Hincks, the most formidable journalist in 
iian politics, replied to Viger and the 'jugglery of Mr. 
on Wakefield' ; and finally Sullivan and Egerton Ryerson 
*d the lists for mortal combat adversaries as incongruous 
ir talents as Saladin and the Grand Master of the Templars. 4 

>t to affront him overly, as he is a vindictive, as well as subtle serpent, and 
si 1 . Charteris "would not give a fig for fortune if he could only get 
ter." * Dagot Papers, iv. 255 ; v, 131, 150, 247, &c. 

irough Forbes. Girouard contemptuously sent Forbes's letter which was 
i 'strictly private and confidential* to La Fontaine. 

anley to Bagot, Nov. 3, Apr. i, 1842, id., ix. 186, 49. Cf. Derbishire to 
itaine, Feb. 12, 1844: 'I told him (Metcalfe) Lord Sydenham . . . was not 
llible guide as he had for instance kept Mr. Viger in gaol for 19 months.' 
itaine Papers, v. 33. 

rouard to La Fontaine, Dec. i, 1843, id., vol. viii ; Dec. 23, 1843, Jan. 
1-4, &c. Baldwin Papers, i. 52, 124, &c. 

le Ministerial Crisis, by a Reformer of 1836, Kingston, 1844. Letters on 
sible Government, by Legion, Examiner Office, Toronto, 1844. Sir Charles 
fe Defended against the Attacks of his Late Counsellors, British Colonist 
Toronto, 1844. 


Sullivan in the witty letters of 'Legion* perhaps the most bril- 
liant invective of the entire series pierced every joint of his adver- 
sary's armour. Elgin once rated Sullivan 'a very able man, the 
readiest with his pen (perhaps a little too much so at times) that I 
ever encountered'. 1 Quarter was neither asked nor given. But much 
in the ruthless campaign of 1844 eludes the student of papers and 
pamphlets. Early signs favoured the Reformers. In April they 
won a by-election in Montreal, marked by bloodshed and by 
violence on both sides a contest which filled many wrathful 
pages in Metcalfe 's dispatches and drew a rejoinder from Hincks 
as late as 1877.2 During the summer La Fontaine was stirred to 
new resentment against Metcalfe by evidences of the * plotting 
against his ministers' by further proofs of Higginson's devious 
activities, by Metcalfe's travesty upon the Higginson interview 
in the letter of May, 1843, which Stanley read to the House in the 
debate on the 'crisis', and by rumours of the promised Adjutant- 
Generalship to Sir Allan MacNab. La Fontaine little suspected 
that the last had been directed as early as July, 1842, by Stanley 
himself. 3 Metcalfe's paraphrase of the La Fontaine-Higginson 
interview was pronounced by Sullivan ' simply and manifestly 
untrue in fact. . . . Men will not patiently submit to have their 
meaning travestied even by Governors.' 4 The ardour of Baldwin's 
Reform Association was unexampled. Yet a chord was struck 
somewhere which vibrated into major harmony with the gover- 
nor's party a plea for 'moderation and loyalty' and despite the 
evangelical rhetoric of Sir Charles Metcalfe Defended one is 
tempted to say that that chord was struck by Egerton Ryerson. 

Ryerson's knowledge of constitutional law was chaotic, but he 
had few masters in his knowledge of human nature. Thus while 
Hincks and Sullivan had the cause which won in the long run, 
Ryerson had the case which won in 1844. Ex-councillors who 
habitually wrote and sometimes spoke of Sir Charles Metcalfe as 
'Old Square-toes', 'the old squaw', 'the old woman', the 'old 

1 Elgin to Grey, Aug. 16, 1848, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

2 G. Series* 460. 312 ff; Hincks, Political History , pp. 34-7. 

3 Bagot determined to 'keep faith*, though MacNab was 'rather damaged 
Goods'. Bagot Papers , v. 97, 150. Cf. Stanley and Hope to Bagot, July 4, 1842 : 
'He accepts with thanks, but with a reservation that it shall not be considered 
as a waiver of the great object of his ambition, which is a Baronetcy. . . . This is 
the object, which dangled before him will be more likely than anything to keep 
him quiet.' Bagot Papers , ix. 1 10 ff. 

* Letters on Responsible Government, p. 80. 


Hypocrite', and 'Charles the Simple*, added little to their cause. 
Like Howe's badinage against Falkland in Nova Scotia, this dis- 
respect brought speedy retribution. The charge that the resigning 
ministers by their public statements had outraged the proprieties 
was not dispelled by Hincks's blunt retort that they had a 'right 
to expect permission to state everything necessary for their com- 
plete justification'. Metcalfe's bearing, moreover, simplified the 
work of his defenders. 'I am guided', he wrote serenely to Stanley, 
'by a sense of Duty which does not rest on speculation as to the 
issue, and would be equally imperative whatever that might be.' ' 
He still played with Higginson's children, he still lavished sub- 
scriptions and hospitality, and he toiled like a galley-slave at the 
innumerable replies to Addresses on 'the crisis'.- Here was a 
governor after Stanley's own heart, bending his back to the oar 
like a man. 

It is easy to decry the election of 1844 as a repetition of Head's 
desperate tactics in 1836. But there were differences as well as 
analogies. There was a difference between Head with his irrespons- 
ible rhetoric and Metcalfe with his 'hard-earned and hitherto un- 
sullied reputation'. Head, in Melbourne's sardonic phrase, was 
'such a damned odd fellow'. 3 The Canadian electorate, too, it is 
very certain, had grown in discernment : their verdict is not 
lightly to be dismissed. Nor can the governor's party be said to have 
monopolized the 'bludgeon-men' and the devious frauds and 
corrupt practices of the day. Metcalfe himself admitted that there 
were 'Irish ready for a Row on both sides', but it is clear from his 
dispatches that he had not outlived his old squeamishness of the 
Hyderabad Residency or the borough-mongering in England. 
In truth some of his opponents already boasted themselves 'apt 
scholars' of Sydenham's methods, and no doubt were quite able 
to take care of themselves. 4 

But Ryerson struck two notes which grew steadily in volume. 
For nearly a generation the Reformers had been assailing the 
'old high party exclusion and domination' of the Family Compact. 

1 The Ministerial Crisis, p. 8. Mar. 30, 1844, G. Series, 460. 291. 

- These were drafted with his own hand. Ninety-three were published in 
Addresses Presented to Sir Chas. T. Metcalfe, Bart., G.C.B. . . . on the Occasion 
of the Resignation of his late Advisers; with His Excellency's Replies, 1844. 

i 'When he went to Lord Melbourne and asked to be allowed to justify him- 
self, all the satisfaction he received was "But you are such a damned odd fellow". ' 
Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 423, note. 

Apr. 13, 1844, G. Series, 460. 300. 

34" Q q 


What was the claim of Hincks and Sullivan to the whole patronage 
of the Crown for party purposes but the 'old high ultra doctrine 
of party exclusiveness' ? The voice was the voice of Jacob but the 
hands were the hands of Esau. In his Address to the Reformers of 
Frontcnac Hincks stated bluntly that if the governor were to make 
appointments 'either without or against the advice of his responsi- 
ble ministers ... all the advantages of Responsible Government 
are lost'. Was this then 'the essence of Responsible Government* ? 
With less than justice to Baldwin and his 'venerated father 7 , 
Ryerson appealed to the record of Joseph Howe as 'the father of 
Responsible Government in British North America' against the 
unholy sacrifice of imperial prerogatives to the 'Moloch of party'. 1 
For the appointment which had precipitated the crisis the 
clerkship of the peace in the Dalhousie district which had been 
solicited by the appointee's widowed mother Ryerson cited 
'the orphan sisters at Bethany' and 'the son of the widow of 
Nain'. The Canadian radicals looked for victory in less time 
than it took Cincinnatus to subdue the Volsci. 'Canada owes 
all its evils', exclaimed Ryerson, 'to immoderate counsels and 
extreme men'. 2 

There was a more piercing note, however, to which Ryerson's 
immediate followers had once already responded. Let the mem- 
bers of Baldwin's Reform Association remember the Constitu- 
tional Reform Association of 1834. 'What took place in 1837 was 
but a preface of what may be witnessed in 1847.' The debates in 
the British Parliament lent colour to these nameless suspicions. 
With the second Papineau rising less than six years away Stanley 
'could understand very well to what it might lead' if the governor 
were to become the 'mere machine of any set of men or party in the 
colony'. Lord John Russell himself supported Peel in stating bluntly 
that the 'power of patronage . . . was believed to be ... necessary, 
if the time should arrive, to maintain the connexion between the 
two countries'. It was left to Ryerson to point the moral : the time 
might come for 'placing all administrative, and judicial, and militia 
offices of the country in the hands of those only who will maintain 

1 Howe stated in his Letter to Hincks that there had been *no instance in three 
years' of a conflict over patronage; but Ryerson might have added Howe's 
dictum that if patronage in Canada were distributed to satisfy 'the Parliamentary 
majority in England, then you had better have a respectable despotism at once, 
without all the troublesome and expensive machinery of a representative govern- 
ment.' Chisholm, op. cit., i. 484. 

1 Sir Charles Metcalfe Defended, passim. 


the constituted authorities of the Empire'. Here was a reason with 
a vengeance for making Sir Allan MacNab Adjutant-General of 
the Canadian militia! Between these two desperate conceptions 
of patronage the one as the tonic of party government and the 
spoils of faction, the other as the equally desperate expedient of 
men of little faith to safeguard their miserable conception of the 
Empire many an elector must have gone to the polls in Novem- 
ber, 1844, with Ryerson's words ringing in his ears: 'Are the 
people of Canada prepared for such a collision?' 


The election of 1844 was embittered by many other issues the 
feuds between 'Repealers' and Orangemen, the removal of the 
seat of government from Kingston to Montreal in June, 1844, 
Metcalfe's reservation of the Secret Societies Bill against the 
Orange order, and Baldwin's University Bill for secularizing higher 
education. The last of these Bishop Strachan pronounced atheisti- 
cal and monstrous 'without a parallel in the history of the world'. 1 
But in the end Metcalfe attributed his victory to the 'loyalty and 
British feeling ... in Upper Canada and in the eastern townships 
of Lower Canada'. 2 The election of Sir Allan MacNab as Speaker 
of the Assembly seemed at last to assure the right 'Class of men 
to fall back upon'. In December Metcalfe was raised to the peer- 
age with Stanley's best official tribute to the 'zeal, ability, and 
prudence' tested and approved in the arduous duties entrusted to 
him. To distant appearances Metcalfe 's success seemed com- 
plete. 'The favour of his Sovereign, and the acknowledgements of 
his Country', wrote Gladstone a few months later, 'have marked 
his Administration as one which . . . may justly be regarded as a 
model by his Successors'.-* 

But disillusionment was soon to reach every interest concerned 
in the Metcalfe crisis. In the end it closed in about Metcalfe him- 
self, and with the Whig administration of 1846 it finally took pos- 
session of the Colonial Office. 

Metcalfe 's new council contrasted but sadly with the brilliant 
administration which Wakefield had described to Mangles less 
than a year before. Draper alone had administrative talent of the 
first rank a match, as Metcalfe wrote, for half-a-dozen men 4 

1 Quoted in Kennedy, Constitution of Canada, p. 242. 2 Life, ii. 564. 
3 To Cathcart, Feb. 3, 1846, G. Series, 449. 330. 4 Life, ii. 550. 


but the weakness of the government was self-evident. The confi- 
dence which begets leadership is a mutual thing, honestly earned 
on the one side and discerningly bestowed on the other. Not one 
of the new councillors commanded a following in the Assembly 
or in the country. Metcalfe himself must have swallowed many a 
bitter draft in the petty manoeuvring which now fell to his lot. The 
Assembly, including Metcalfe's 'loyal* majority, voted unanim- 
ously an Address for a general amnesty: 'one of thanks for Her 
Majesty's clemency', wrote Metcalfe, 'would in my opinion have 
been more appropriate*. When the opposition moved to reinstate 
the French language in the legislature, Metcalfe, in defiance of his 
instructions, consented to allow Papineau, his Commissioner of 
Crown Lands, to disarm them by moving an Address to the same 
end. 1 Early in September Draper in despair opened negotiations 
through Caron to appoint La Fontaine to the bench and to take 
Morin into the council. But La Fontaine recognized Sydenham 's 
old tactics and contemptuously declined. 'The same scene', he 

wrote 'is on the eve of being re- enacted, or I am much mistaken 

Lord Metcalfe is the Lord Sydenham and his successor will be 
the Sir Charles Bagot. Come what may, I desire above every thing 
to remain at peace with my own convictions/- No surer prophecy 
was ever uttered. The truth was that Metcalfe, like Sydenham, had 
to be his own minister; and when the fatal disease which de- 
stroyed his right eye and finally his life had vanquished all but his 
indomitable will, the only recourse he had to offer to his perplexed 
councillors was to die at his post.^ After he left Canada the minis- 
try began to disintegrate. Elgin afterwards reported that 'notwith- 
standing the issue raised by Lord Metcalfe, they used patronage 
for party purposes with quite as little scruple as his first council'. 
The time came when even MacNab conceded that the Reformers 

were 'far superior to this Ministry !' In May 1847, MacNab, 

was ready for a rapprochement with Baldwin himself. 4 It devolved 
upon Lord Elgin 'the Sir Charles Bagot' of La Fontaine's 
prophecy to close the Metcalfe regime by the dissolution of 
December, 1847. 

For the Reformers, too, disillusionment followed the Metcalfe 
crisis. There was no little truth in Wakefield's charge that Baldwin 

1 Metcalfe to Stanley, Dec. 21, 1844, G. Series, 460. 391 ; Life, ii. 567. 

2 Caron to La Fontaine, Sept. 7 and 8, 1845 ; La Fontaine to Caron, Sept. 10. 
La Fontaine Papers, vol. viii. 3 Life ii, 603. 

4 La Fontaine to Baldwin, May 13, 1847. Baldwin Papers, i. 64 ff. 


and Hincks had tied the fortunes of Lower Canada to the chariot- 
wheels of Upper Canadian radicalism. La Fontaine protested, but 
his protests were paralysed by his gratitude. There are few nobler 
passages in Canadian public life than the friendship between 
Baldwin and La Fontaine; but after the election of 1844 * n which 
even Hincks was defeated in his own constituency and the 'party 
completely routed', La Fontaine could not conceal the 'feeling of 
general disgust 5 in Lower Canada: 

'Even the best disposed ', he wrote bitterly to Baldwin, 'place little 
reliance upon the Reformers of Upper Canada. . . . Unless you are in 
power they are at all times (ready) to abandon you. . . . They cannot 
expect that Lower Canadians will continue to injure their own 
interest, by fighting for their cause which they have so shamefully 
abandoned. . . . 

As to myself I sincerely hope 1 will never ... be obliged to take office 
again. ... it seems as if duplicity, deceit, want of sincerity, selfish- 
ness, were virtues. It gives me a poor idea of human nature.' * 

Hincks's characteristic comment in the Pilot was that 'so far as 
Upper Canada is concerned the people richly deserve a Tory 

Metcalfe did not live to see the extent of his own failure, though 
he must have felt its approach. He had come to Canada deter- 
mined to know no parties but to deal justly with all. He em- 
bittered one party implacably in trying to control it, and his only 
recourse in the end was to identify himself so irrevocably with 
another that its defeat would have forced his own retirement. 3 
Hincks once contrasted the addresses of universal welcome to 
Metcalfe in 1843 with the mingled execrations and partisan ad- 
dresses of 1844. Metcalfe found the two races in unprecedented 
concord such as Sydenham had despaired of and Durham had 
believed for that generation impossible. He left his name associated 
with theirs in French Canada without the extenuating plea of 
necessity. If there was one passion above another which animated 
Metcalfe 's forty-three years of public service it was his devotion 
to the Empire as he conceived it; but in rallying 'loyalists' against 
a 'revolutionary party' in Canada he risked another rebellion, and 
four years later his 'loyal' supporters in Montreal burnt down the 
parliament buildings, pelted the Queen's representative with 
rotten eggs, and signed a manifesto for annexation to the United 

1 Sept. 23, 1845, 'Confidential'. Id., i. 76 ff. - Nov. 16, 1844. 

3 Metcalfe to Stanley, Life, ii. 571, note. 


States. There are few more mendacious words, even in an epi- 
taph, than Macaulay's lines upon Metcalfe's tomb in Winkfield 
Church: 'In Canada ... he reconciled contending factions to each 
other and to the Mother Country.' 

If this must be said of Metcalfe, it was surely a tragedy that he 
ever came to Canada or that he did not live to try again; for in his 
disillusionment at the end he had almost done for himself what 
others had failed to do for him convinced himself of the in- 
evitableness of responsible government. In one sense his own 
party demonstrated it willy-nilly, and his own offer in 2845 to 
make way, if necessary, for La Fontaine and Baldwin was but a 
part of that demonstration. Its inevitable corollary was the policy of 
Grey and Elgin, for it proved, as perhaps nothing else could have 
proved, the truth of Buller's prophecy that 'Responsible Govern- 
ment would inevitably be established by the people themselves'. 1 

It is conceivable that Metcalfe might have demonstrated respons- 
ible government in a better sense had his lot, either before or 
after his Canadian experience, fallen elsewhere. To Joseph Howe, 
whose robust and unerring instinct had cast aside 'all suspicion of 
disloyalty ... as the product of ignorance or cupidity', it seemed 
that Metcalfe might have responded to 'a little tact and temper' 
*a judicious friend to the principles, having the confidence of all 
parties, and no interest in the matter.' 2 Assuredly no governor 
ever had more to say categorically in support of responsible govern- 
ment. 'With moderate Men', he wrote to Stanley, 'I see no im- 
possiblity in carrying on the Government ... on the principle of 
Responsible Government'; but with immoderate partisans who 
* will not be satisfied without trampling on the Crown, and reducing 
the Governor to the condition of a mere Tool in their hands . . . 
the undertaking is perfectly hopeless.' 3 There may have been 
much truth in Wakefield's shrewd remark that Metcalfe, accus- 
tomed from long habit to ' exercise his own mind upon everything' , 
was 'provoked into wishing for more control than would satisfy 
him if they left him a reasonable share'. At one time Metcalfe 
himself caught a fleeting glimpse of the great arcanum that 'opposi- 
tion to the Council need not be regarded as opposition to the 

1 In the debate on the Re- Union Bill. Cf. Grey in Colonial Policy, p. 206: 
'The Governor, by his rupture with one party, was placed ... in the power of 
the other The danger of his position was fully understood by Lord Metcalfe.' 

3 Howe to Buchanan, Aug. 31, 1844, Howe Papers, vi. 72. 

3 May 24, 1844. G. Series, 460. 337 ff. 


Governor', 1 but it fell to other men of greater faith and it is but 
fair to add, with Metcalfe's bitter experience to guide them to 
lead the way to a wiser policy.. 



With the departure of Metcalfe in 1845 the direct influence of 
Canada upon the official acceptance of responsible government by 
the Colonial Office came to an end ; for the brief period of Cath- 
cart's governorship under Gladstone merely confirmed the false 
estimates of the Metcalfe regime, and before Elgin arrived in 
Canada in 1847 there had come a new heaven and a new earth. 
In July, 1846, the Whigs under Lord John Russell had come back 
to power in Great Britain. The Colonial Office, moreover, passed 
not to Lord John Russell himself with his Olympian Whig logic 
but to the third Earl Grey who, though a Whig, was at least 
unashamed of his Radical affiliations. The name of Durham was 
to come at last into its own. Grey himself was his brother-in-law. 
Elgin was his son-in-law, and Elgin's administration in Canada 
began in 1847 with the conviction, as he wrote to his young wife, 
that 'the real and effectual vindication of Lord Durham's memory 
and proceedings will be the success of a Governor-General in Canada 
who works out his views of government fairly'* Behind Grey stood 
the sound and resolute support of Charles Buller and Benjamin 
Hawes.3 No worthier names than these are to be found behind 
British colonial policy during the second Empire, for in the end 
their work was to transform governance into self- government, and 
the second Empire itself into a Commonwealth of self-governing 

Among those who contributed directly to that change, no gover- 
nor, and perhaps no single individual, in the esteem of posterity, 
stands higher than Elgin: 'his name is almost the first/ 4 But it is 
clear that the new policy was shaping itself long before Elgin was 

1 Life, ii. 485. 

- 'Depend upon it, it this country is governed for a few years satisfactorily 
Lord Durham's reputation as a statesman will be raised beyond the reach of 
cavil.' Egerton and Grant, p. 312. 

3 Jan. 3, 1844: 'I dined at Lord John Russell's. . . . Buller who sat next to me, 
was very reserved, and appeared to have grown into a greater man than I left 
him in 1 842. Palmerston whispered to me afterwards that Buller and Ben Hawes 
entertained a project of making Howick leader of the party, or a leader of a 
party.' Recollections of a Long Life, Lord Broughton, vi. 89. 

* Morison, op. cit., p. 189. 


appointed to Canada, and it had already entered upon its final 
phase before Elgin left England. Early in September, 1846, Buller 
had written to Howe of Grey's 'sound views of Colonial Policy', 
though the good results were not to be achieved all at once until he 
could 'find Governors to carry his views into effect'. Again on 
November 16, a week after Elgin's marriage to the daughter of 
Lord Durham and more than two months before his arrival in 
Canada, Buller wrote of 'the fullest adoption of the principles of 
Responsible Government' in the instructions to Sir John Harvey 
in Nova Scotia to 'entrust his Government to those who have the 
confidence of a majority of the Assembly'. 1 Harvey's instructions, 
adds Grey, were intended to establish 'principles of general appli- 
cation to all colonies having a similar form of government'. Upon 
this point, indeed, Grey's own record, revised by Elgin himself, 
must be conclusive : 

'As Lord Elgin . . . did not leave this country . . . till the month of 
January, 1847, I had the opportunity of communicating with him 
very fully . . . with respect to the line of conduct to be pursued by 
him, and the means to be adopted for the purpose of bringing into 
full and successful operation the system of constitutional govern- 
ment which it seemed to be the desire of the inhabitants of British 
North America to have established among them. . . . The best ex- 
planation I can give of these views, and of the principles which have 
guided our whole policy towards the North American Colonies, will 
be afforded by an extract from a despatch ... to Sir John Harvey, the 
Lieutenant- Governor of Nova Scotia, on the 3rd of November, 


The despatch . . . was communicated to Lord Elgin previously to 
his proceeding to Canada ; and, in conformity with the principles there 
laid down, it was his object ... to withdraw from the position into 
which Lord Metcalfe had, by unfortunate circumstances, been 
brought . . . and to make it generally understood that, if public 
opinion required it, he was equally ready to accept their opponents 
as his advisers, uninfluenced by any personal preferences or ob- 
jections.' 2 

With Grey's dispatch 'clear as a sunbeam' for his guidance 
and with the closely knit circle at the Colonial Office staunchly 
behind him, one of the wisest and most gifted of men undertook 

1 Correspondence between Joseph Howe and Charles Buller, 1845-1848, in Can. 
Hist. Rev., Dec. 1925, pp. 316, 320. 

1 Grey's Colonial Policy of the Administration of Lord John Russell, pp. 208, 
209, 214. 


the mission to Canada. He was barely in time, for the measure 
alike of Elgin's task and of his achievement was the peril from 
which the province was saved in 1848. 


Elgin's name is a household word in Canada, and it seems un- 
necessary to dwell upon the superlative gifts of heart and head that 
made him, in temper and in spirit, the most prophetic figure of the 
Commonwealth. As a fellow-student of Gladstone who once 
awarded to him the palm for 'the natural gift of eloquence*, he 
inherited something of the hard empiricism of Sir Robert Peel, 
the instinctive distrust of doctrinaire theories which the Peelite 
shared with the Benthamite Liberal of the next generation. As 
member of Parliament for Southampton Elgin had seconded the 
resolution which led to the fall of Melbourne and to Peel's premier- 
ship in 1842. He had followed Metcalfe as Stanley's appointee 
in Jamaica. His name was suggested for Canada by Queen 
Victoria herself. 'He was at that time', wrote Grey, 'personally 
altogether unknown to me.' 1 His appointment to Canada by a 
Whig administration, like Metcalfe's by the Tories, was thus 
a tribute alike to the man and to his mission. 

In Canada Elgin's genial spirits, his reputation as 'the most 
effective speaker in the province', his youth and robust health, all 
contrasted with the elderly valetudinarianism of his predecessors. 
His political views were equally robust, for above all British states- 
men of that generation Elgin was a man of faith; and 'faith, where 
it is sincere', Elgin himself was wont to say, 'is always catching'. 
Five years later he could boast that he had 'imparted this faith, 
more or less thoroughly' not only to all his Canadian ministers but 
to many a sceptic in England, Bagot's old friend Wharncliffe 
among the number. 2 

Elgin's first year in Canada was not spectacular; yet it was the 
key to all the rest, for without it, as he afterwards maintained, the 
rest would never have been possible. 3 He found his ministers 
'struggling for existence Catching at straws living from hand to 
mouth', and several of them 'playing rather fast and loose' with 
their colleagues. With candour and goodwill he advised them to 
meet the Assembly at once with a bold and practical programme ; 
but 'too weak or too wanting in pluck for this . . . they smile and 

1 Colonial Policy, i. 207. : Egerton and Grant, p. 331. 

3 Elgin to Grey, Mar. 17, 1848, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

34" R I 


shake their heads'. Draper had no policy to offer, he added, but 
to 'turn my back upon the French & to go all lengths with the 
exclusively British party* to become a * partisan Governor, at the 
head of a British Anti- Gallic party a position alike repugnant to 
my principles & inconsistent with my Professions'. 1 

Elgin began by convincing his ministers that they might 'with 
perfect safety' confide their political difficulties to him confi- 
dences which Elgin honoured even with Grey himself by indicat- 
ing his ministers by their initials. With their complete approval he 
undertook to renew negotiations with Morin and Caron which 
Draper, to do him justice, had already tried in vain. In these over- 
tures it is clear that Elgin was discharging more than a perfunctory 
duty. Like Bagot before him he was inclined to doubt the perman- 
ency of the 'unnatural alliance between the Baldwin & French 
factions' a doubt which the closing chapter of La Fontaine's 
public life and indeed the whole career of John A. Macdonald went 
far to justify. With the concession of responsible government the 
instinctive conservatism of French Canada would be left free to 
reassert itself. 2 So careful was Elgin, however, to preserve his 
own 'strict impartiality' that in the end La Fontaine himself was 
given to understand that 'the invitation to the French Canadians 
to take office contained no exception* 2 

The overtures came to nothing, for the Reformers already saw 
the ball 'rolling to their feet', and were prepared to bide their 
time. But Elgin's chief object had been achieved 'not the forma- 
tion of a mixed administration . . . but to show the French that 
I do not distrust them'. 4 Here was the 'unsuspecting confidence' 
'something to trust to' which Burke and Chatham had in- 
voked in vain. With equal candour Elgin turned to the recon- 
struction of his ministry under Sherwood and Cayley . The govern- 
ment weathered the session of June, 1847, by the narrowest of 
margins, but during these early months of his administration, 
long before any change in policy was openly discernible, Elgin had 
struck the key-note of a new Empire. He had laid the foundations 

1 Id., Mar. 2, 1848; May 18, 1847, 'Secret'; Feb. 24, 1847, 'Secret'. 

: Id., Feb. 24, 1847, 'Secret'; Mar. 27, 1847, 'Secret': 'I believe that the pro- 
blem of how to govern United Canada would be solved if the French would split 
into a Liberal & Conservative Party and join the Upper Canadian Parties bearing 
the corresponding names. . . . The national element would be merged in the 

^ La Fontaine to Baldwin, Apr. n, 1847, 'Private', Baldwin Papers, i. 70. 

4 Elgin to Grey, Apr. 26, 1847, 'Secret', Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 


of a lasting tradition in Canada and had established with Grey 
himself an ascendancy hitherto unequalled in colonial adminis- 
tration : 

'My course ... is I think clear & plain. ... I give to my Ministers all 
constitutional support frankly and without reserve, & the benefit of 
the best advice . . . that I can afford them in their difficulties. ... I 
have never concealed from them that I intend to do nothing which 
may prevent (me) from working cordially with their Opponents. . . . 
That Ministers and oppositions should occasionally change places is 
of the very essence of our Constitutional system, & it is probably the 
most conservative element which it contains. By subjecting all sec- 
tions of politicians in their turn to official responsibilities it obliges 
heated partisans to place some restraint on passion. ... It is indis- 
pensable that the head of the Government should show that he has 
confidence in the loyalty of all the influential parties with which he 
has to deal/ 

*I have always said to my advisers (he afterwards wrote) " while you 
continue my advisers you shall enjoy my unreserved confidence ; and 
en revanche, you shall be responsible for all acts of government".' 1 

Grey's confidence in turn was given as frankly and as un- 
reservedly to Elgin as Elgin's to his ministers. The letter quoted 
at length above, Grey pronounced to be 'as clear & complete an 
account of the proper duties of the Governor of such a Colony as 
it is possible to write'. 2 A month later (July 19) Grey was prepared 
to accept Elgin's conclusions on local issues 'from what you tell 
me of them' without the pretence or even the concern of under- 
standing them in detail. In the intimacies of the Grey- Elgin 
Correspondence it became a practice to consult the requirements of 
their respective constituencies by suggesting to each other what 
to put into their official dispatches. It is clear that the 'great 
experiment', as Elgin called it, was to be a concerted policy. For 
Canada itself one rule was imperative. * You & the Home Govern- 
ment', wrote Grey, 'belong to neither party & have nothing to do 
with their contests. . . . This principle must be completely estab- 
lished in order long to preserve our connection with the Colony/ 3 
The rest of Elgin's administration was but the application of this 
principle. The first-fruits were naturally the formal concession of 

1 Id., Elgin to Grey, May 27, 1847, 'Private'. Elgin to Gumming Bruce, 
Sept. 1852, Egerton and Grant, p. 333. 

* June 16, 1847, 'Private*, Grey-Elgin Correspondence: 'Your letter has 
interested me exceedingly & I most entirely concur in every word you say.' 

3 /</., July 19, 1847, 'Private'. 


responsible government in its final form. A second series of prob- 
lems tested the efficacy of the 'great experiment' during one of 
the gravest crises since the American Revolution. A third served 
to reduce the vexed issues of Royalty' and the British connexion, 
of relations with the United States, and of self-government in 
Canada, to a series of practical conceptions upon which the whole 
subsequent history of Canada is scarcely more than a commentary. 


The first of these, after a contest which had convulsed colonial 
government for twenty years, proved to be almost commonplace 
in its simplicity. 

The formal concession of responsible government in Canada was 
made to a political party which Elgin, as we have seen, believed to 
be factitious and unnatural an alliance which after coming into 
power with the largest majority in the history of the Union dis- 
integrated within three years. 'Responsible Government', wrote 
Elgin, 'is the only subject on which this coincidence is alleged to 
exist'; and unfortunately responsible government though the 
greatest of issues was not a measure but a method. Beyond this 
there were 'half a dozen parties' dominated by all sorts of 'affec- 
tions and antipathies, national, sectional and personal'. All were 
intent upon 'making political capital out of whatever turns up'. 
Public life was thus 'so occupied with personal squabbles that the 
bent of men's opinions on graver subjects can hardly be conjec- 
tured'. Still less adaptable was the gregarious inertia of French 
nationalism. The British Reformers, Elgin wrote bluntly, 

'have at least some notion of fair play in carrying out the principles 
of Govt. which they advocate. But with the French generally it is far 
otherwise. They adopt at second hand the political dogmas of the 
English Liberals. . . . But they are unwilling to admit I might almost 
say they seem incapable of comprehending that the principles of 
constitutional government must be applied against them as well as for 
them and whenever there appears to be a chance of things taking 
this turn, they revive the ancient cry of nationality, and insist on their 
right to have a share in the administration, not because the party with 
which they have chosen to connect themselves is in the ascendant, 
but because they represent a people of distinct origin.' l 
In Canada, therefore, there were to be found few of those in- 
stinctive affinities which had drawn Howe and Harvey and Buller 

1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, Elgin to Grey, Apr. 26, Apr. 27, May 27, 
June 28, 1847, 'Private & Confidential*. 


together for the first responsible government in Nova Scotia. 
Elgin himself, with the thrifty reluctance of the true Peelite to 
forgo an urgent practical programme, offers the prosaic comment 
that ' this change of Government occurs at an inconvenient moment' . 
There were compensations in new talent and a strong party able 
to carry out its policy: 'the difficulty will be to get them to agree'. 1 
After the narrow margin of the government in the session oi 
1847 the news of the reform victory in Nova Scotia was interpreted 
as the handwriting on the wall. The word went out that the gover- 
nor 'not only would take no part in the elections but would take 
good care that the elections should be free from government in- 
fluence'. 'Is it true/ asked La Fontaine, 'and is there sincerity?' 3 
In December the ministry, correctly judging the rising tide to be 
against them, advised a dissolution before it should be too late. 
With Hincks absent in Great Britain Elgin was inclined to believe 
a ministerial victory possible, and La Fontaine 'would have pre- 
ferred another session' before a final struggle at the polish But the 
result was the overwhelming defeat of the government. The 
constituency which had defeated Hincks's every exertion in 1844 
now elected him in his absence. The new house met on February 
25. Morin was elected Speaker by a vote of 54 to 19. On March 3 
a vote of want of confidence moved by Baldwin was carried, 54 to 
20. The following day the ministers resigned in a body. On 
March 7 Elgin sent for La Fontaine and Baldwin: 

'I spoke to them (he wrote) in a candid and friendly tone. Told them 
that I thought there was a fair prospect, if they were moderate and 
firm, of forming an administration deserving & enjoying the confi- 
dence of Parliament, that they might count on all proper support 
and assistance from us. La Fontaine 's manner, (to whom Baldwin 
seemed desirous to yield the first place) is naturally somewhat stiff, 
but he soon thawed, and our intercourse has been entirely frank & 

Thus quietly and without ostentation the first avowedly responsi- 
ble government in Canada came into being on March n, 1848. 
The comment of the British press, Elgin noted bitterly, was still 
'plough written' and undiscerning, but Grey's support was all that 
could have been desired. 'There is no middle course', he wrote, 

1 Id., Elgin to Grey, Jan. 22, 1848. 

La Fontaine to Baldwin, May 13, 1847, Baldwin Papers, i. 64. 
3 Elgin to Grey, Dec. 9, 1847, 'Private', Grey-Elgin Correspondence; La Fon- 
taine to Baldwin, Oct. 29, 1847, Baldwin Papers, i. 126. 


'between this line of policy, & that which involves in the last 
resort an appeal to Parliament to overrule the wishes of the 
Canadians.' Even if it were necessary to include Papineau himself, 
he added, 'in spite of his manifesto I should not object if his being 
included . . . should be insisted upon by the leaders of a party which 
can command a majority'. 1 Concession could scarcely go farther 
than this, for Papineau had returned to Canada in 1847 with a 
manifesto which Elgin had described as charged with republican- 
ism, hatred of the British connexion, and distrust of responsible 
government. In the general elections Papineau had been returned 
by acclamation, and this last foray into Canadian politics was but 
one of the ingredients of the perilous situation which Elgin now 
turned to encounter as the second phase of his 'great experiment'. 


Walrond has applied to Elgin the praise which Melbourne once 
bestowed upon another famous diplomatist of his day : 'My Lords, 
you can never fully appreciate the merits of that great man. You 
can appreciate the great acts which he publicly performed; but 
you cannot appreciate, for you cannot know, the great mischief 
which he unostentatiously prevented.'- 

In Canada as in Europe 1848 was a prodigious 'year of trial', 
attended, as Elgin wrote, by the most incongruous complications. 
Many of these were economic. Others were racial some indi- 
genous to Canada, and others imported with the tens of thousands 
of plague-stricken immigrants from Ireland during the famine. 
Across the border the Hunters' Lodges and the Irish Republican 
Union were exploiting a presidential election in order to visit the 
woes of Ireland upon Canada. In Canada itself, Papineau, fresh 
from republican agitation in France upon the eve of 'the '48', 
appeared like a stormy petrel above the elements of confusion. 

The economic background in Canada was doubly irritating. 
The struggle for responsible government had presented the usual 
aspect of the debtor 'frontier', in the popular theory, against the 
credit centres of population. But the imperial approach to re- 
sponsible government had also been economic, and the movement 
for free trade, for which Grey could boast that he had voted con- 
sistently since 1827, had wrought 'nothing less than a revolution' 
in the relations between Great Britain and her colonies. Thus 

1 Grey to Elgin, Feb. 22, 1848, 'Private', Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

2 Walrond, Letters and Journals of Lord Elgin, Lond., 1872, p. 63. 


those imponderables of colonial policy the spirit and political 
aptitudes of Britons at home and abroad, the discerning of which 
has proved at all times the surest index to statesmanship were 
now freed from many of the devious interests of the first Empire. 
Grey and Newcastle were still imperialists for free trade, but they 
affirmed too the benign imperialism which Burke had contemplated, 
directing the destinies of colonies 'as from the throne of heaven* 
for their own salvation. 1 

But if the repercussion of free trade upon colonial policy in 
Great Britain loosed the bonds of mercantilism and struck a chill 
through the faith of the old Empire, its effect upon the colonies them- 
selves was doubly operative. In the first place it destroyed much 
of the glamour, and exposed the less creditable motives, of the old 
order; for if Lord John Russell, whose austere probity was beyond 
question, could so easily console himself for the dissolution of the 
Empire once it was demonstrated that it did not pay, what was to 
be said for the sedulous loyalty of lesser breeds when profit was 
openly avowed? 2 More directly still, the fiscal changes in Great 
Britain wrought havoc with colonial prosperity. The colonies lost 
their advantages in the British market. The British connexion 
took on a new aspect. * Distress (wrote Grey) is usually the parent 
of political discontent/ 

In Canada this distress was directly chargeable to the British 
connexion. By Peel's Canada Corn Act of 1843, which Grey 
almost alone in Great Britain had consistently opposed, wheat 
and flour from Canada were admitted to Great Britain at a nominal 
duty in consideration of a provincial duty of 3,9. a quarter on wheat 
from the United States. American wheat thus poured into Cana- 
dian mills for the British market, and much of this buoyant pros- 
perity was reflected in the politics of the Metcalfe regime. For 
Elgin and his ' great experiment* the conditions were exactly 
reversed. By the Act of 1846 the whole basis of this lucrative 
trade was swept away. The capital invested in Canadian mills, 
warehouses, docks, canals, and ship-yards, was almost destroyed. 
Elgin's remedy for this must be noted presently, but without 
redress of some sort it was clear that 'both home and foreign trade 

1 Grey's Colonial Policy, i. 6, 13: 'The authority of the British Crown is at 
this moment the most powerful instrument, under Providence, of maintaining 
peace and order in many extensive regions of the earth, and thereby assists in 
diffusing among millions of the human race, the blessings of Christianity and 

: Cf. Knox, Extra Official State Papers, ii. 54. 


would be benefitted by the severance of the connexion'. 1 The 
crisis was not to pass, as we shall see, without a startling revulsion 
in the Royalty' of Canadian Tory vested interests, and a manifesto 
for annexation to the United States. 

There was a second element of peril in 1848. The prosperity 
of frontier communities depends largely upon the steady influx of 
immigration. Grey himself was a convert to Gibbon Wakefield's 
school, and his letters are filled with projects for systematic 
colonization by regiments of prospective settlers to be employed 
in public works until fitted for pioneer conditions. More promising 
still was the able and constructive policy of R. B. Sullivan. But 
the Irish famine of 1847 deluged the province from the seaports 
to the western frontiers with 100,000 immigrants attended by all 
the horrors of disease and destitution. The quarantine stations 
became plague centres for the entire community. Elgin took ad- 
vantage of a brief absence of Lady Elgin to 'run down to Grosse 
He and see with my own eyes*. A shipload of tenants from the 
Irish estates of Lord Palmerston after the closing of the quaran- 
tine stations, filled the cup of exasperation in Canada to over- 
flowing. Trance and Ireland are in flames', wrote Elgin, 'and . . . 
nearly half the population of this Colony are French nearly half 
of the remainder Irish. . . . The events which are succeeding each 
other with such dread rapidity in these two important countries, 
are producing a ground swell even here/ To the accompaniment of 
placards and public meetings it was stated that * 50,000 Irish were 
ready to march into Canada from the United States at a moment's 
notice'. 2 With less than his usual composure, Elgin wrote of 'Guy 
Fawkes Papineau, actuated by the most malignant passions, irritated 
vanity, disappointed ambition, and national hatred . . . waving a 
lighted torch among these combustibles'. 'Lord John Russell was a 
deceiver and Responsible Govt. a delusion and a snare.' 3 For many 
weeks Elgin searched the French press in vain for a frank disavowal 
of Papineau 's virulent propaganda. In the midst of these alarms 
Elgin was 'required to accept as aclvisers persons who were de- 
nounced very lately by the Secretary of State and the Govr. 
General as impracticable and disloyal'. 4 'You will, I think, admit', 

1 Elgin to Grey, Apr. 9, 1848, 'Private', Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 
- Id., Elgin to Grey, April 26, 1848; July 18, 1848. 
> Id., Elgin to Grey, May 4, 1848; Jan. 22, 1848. 

i 'In these sentiments however I have never either overtly or covertly ex- 
pressed concurrence.* Id., Elgin to Grey, Feb. 5, 1848. 


he added three months later, 'that if we pass through this crisis 
without explosions, it will be ... an encouragement to persevere 
in a liberal and straightforward application of Constitutional 
principles to Govt.' I 


Elgin and Grey never doubted that the day was saved by the 
timely granting of responsible government. In this their own share 
was beyond calculation. It is on record that when Grey's dis- 
patches to Sir John Harvey appeared in the Canadian press 'even 
Papineau . . . was staggered, & for a moment admitted that Perfide 
Albion might be sincere'.* But in truth Canada was saved not in 
London but in Montreal, for Elgin had better allies than he knew. 
Faultlessly as his own part had been played, it was upon Baldwin 
and above all upon La Fontaine the 'rebels and republicans' of 
desperate Tory invective that Elgin now fell hack in the hour of 
need. It was Baldwin who met Papineau upon his own ground in 
the caucus of the party 3 and carried an Address of 'loyalty and 
attachment to the British connexion'. Papineau was unable to 
find 'in the most liberal Assembly ever elected in Canada an indi- 
vidual who would second his amendment'. 'If I had adopted the 
views which I inherited,' Elgin wrote advisedly, 'a declaration of 
this nature at the present time would have sounded like the blast 
of a trumpet through the Union.' 4 

The duel with Papineau however was fought by one of his own 
race and language. The crucial debate of January, 1849, was to 
prove that Papineau had returned to a Canada that knew not 
Joseph. The new constitution of the province, he cried, was 
'false, tyrannical and calculated to demoralize its people'; it was 
'conceived by statesmen of a narrow and malevolent genius'; its 
results would be 'ruinous and disastrous'. But the central figure 
of Canada was now La Fontaine, and there can be few incidents 
more climacteric in Canadian history than La Fontaine's speech, 
said to be the greatest of his career, vindicating in the French 
tongue the advantages of responsible government against 'the 
fluctuating constitutions of France'; vindicating also that early 

1 Id., May 4, 1848. 

* Id., Elgin to Grey, Feb. 5, 1848. 

3 On March i to consider the Address in reply to the Speech from the Throne 
in which Elgin, in order to force Papineau's hand, had attributed 'the blessings 
of Peace' to patriotism and a * State which is both just and powerful*. Id., Elgin 
to Grey, Mar. 2, 1848. 

4 Id. t Mar. 2, Mar. 17, 1848. 

34** S S 


prophetic insight of Hincks and Baldwin and Harrison and Bagot 
without which such a climax as this might have been forever im- 
possible. In the midst of 'the astounding intelligence from 
Europe* Elgin had resolutely 'committed the flag of Britain to the 
custody of those who are supported by the large majority of the 
representatives and Constituencies of the Province'. Forthebenefit 
of those 'whose vocation it is to invent wrongs for Ireland', he 
enclosed a list of the five Irishmen, four Frenchmen, one English- 
man, and two Scotsmen in his Executive Council; and one of 
Metcalfe's old councillors, he added, had congratulated him 
1 more than once on the seasonable change of administration'/ 

In Great Britain, too, Grey quoted the presentment of the Grand 
Jury of Montreal: the peace and tranquillity of Canada 'dans les 
troubles et le feu des revolutions . . . est due a la forme de notrc 
Gouvernement, et surtout a la sagesse, a 1'habilete et a la fermetc 
des homines appeles par le Representant de notre Souverain a le 
faire fonctionner'. 'Nor have I any doubt whatever', he wrote to 
Elgin, 'that you are right in your belief that by acting on the very 
different policy of Lord Metcalfe (which you know I never ap- 
proved) you would have got into inextricable difficulties.' 2 At the 
close of 'this year of trial' Elgin's deliberate conviction may be left 
in his own words: 

* Looking then calmly at the state of feeling and parties both here and 
in the States, and at all that has occurred during the last twelve 
months, with the utmost desire to see things exactly as they are, I 
have no hesitation in expressing my conviction, that if I had failed 
in conveying to the leaders of the Liberal Party here ... an impression 
of my perfect sincerity and fairness if I had not (having thus pre- 
pared the ground) allowed constitutional principles to have full scope 
and play ... we should by this hour either have been ignominiously 
expelled from Canada, or our relations with the United States would 
have been in a most precarious condition.* 3 


Responsible government was now implanted in Canadian soil, 
and its future was to depend not upon nice adjustments of British 
policy but upon its own organic growth . It must suffice here to note 

1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, Mar. 27, May 4, May 10, 1848. 

1 Colonial Policy, i. 216-17. Apr. 14, 1848, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

i Id., Nov. 30, 1848, 'Private'. 


briefly in conclusion two or three of the transformations wrought 
by Elgin's * great experiment' in the political outlook of Canada. 

In the first place it broadened and transformed the whole con- 
ception of 'loyalty' and the British connexion. In Stanley's opinion 
4 the Canadas are gone' if the governor with the prestige of Downing 
Street behind him were to fail to keep 'the party of the connexion' 
in the ascendant. 1 Nothing could have been more fatal than this, 
for the party of the connexion, entrenched in place and power, 
relied upon Downing Street in direct proportion to their unpopu- 
larity in Canada, and they accumulated unpopularity in Canada 
in proportion to their reliance upon Downing Street. Now Elgin 
was not blind to the value of 'romantic loyalty', though he found 
it 'fast waning in Canada', 2 but none did more to break the old 
rampant Tory monopoly of it which had flourished under Head and 
Metcalfe. He did this not by discrediting them but by allowing 
them to discredit themselves; and it stands to his lasting credit 
that the shame which they brought upon themselves and upon 
Canada did not distort his outlook or deter him from winning 
them to a better cause. 

The story of the Rebellion Losses Bill and the burning of the 
parliament buildings at Montreal is too familiar to require repeti- 
tion. The Bill itself for the payment of rebellion losses in Lower 
Canada was based upon a unanimous address under Metcalfe. 
'Having taken the measure of the late Conservative Government', 
wrote Elgin, ' we are proceeding to reappoint their own Commis- 
sioners . . . with instructions which place upon the Act the most 
restricted and loyalist construction of which the terms are suscep- 
tible ! Truly if ever rebellion stood on a rickety pretense (he added) 
it is the Canadian Tory rebellion of 1849.' 3 The Bill had passed 
by overwhelming majorities, both British and French; but the Tory 
opposition, then Very low in the World ', exhausted every expe- 
dient 'of menace, intimidation and appeals to passion' to have 'the 
Metcalfe game . . . played over again', and to force the governor 
to a coup d'etat as the leader of a 'loyal' party. To have reserved 
the Bill would have invited this conclusion. To have dissolved the 
House would have stultified responsible government. Grey and 
Elgin were in agreement from the first, and Elgin had fixed upon 
his course nearly two months before the Bill was presented to him 

1 Stanley to Peel, Aug. 27, 1842, Bagot Papers, ix. 143. 

2 Elgin to Grey, Mar. 14, 1849, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

3 Id., June 17, 1849. 


on April 25, 1849. When he left the House, however, 'persons of 
a respectable class in society, pelted the carriage with missiles 
which they must have brought with them for the purpose'. A mass 
meeting, summoned by printed notice, broke the windows of the 
parliament buildings while the House was in session, 'set fire to 
the building and burnt it to the ground'. Five days later brickbats 
were substituted for rotten eggs, and Elgin narrowly escaped with 
his life in the streets of Montreal. The Tory press alternated 'the 
vilest calumnies' with almost unbelievable petulance. 1 Military 
officers regarded the governor and his ministers as * little better 
than rebels and do no small mischief by talking in that sense', 
while the rioters welcomed the troops, 'cheering on their approach 
and dispersing with "God save the Queen".' 2 The Patriot pre- 
dicted a similar welcome for Elgin in Upper Canada. Both the 
Chief Justice and the Bishop were conspicuously absent from 
Elgin's reception in Toronto. The British League /furiously loyal' 
in the same sense, and Sir Allan MacNab's Hamilton Spectator 
'loyal tories pur sang' joined forces against the governor with the 
Tory commercial interests of Montreal advocating annexation to 
the United States. 

Meanwhile British Tory opinion was 'not less unscrupulous & 
violent than that in Canada', and the Whigs were scarcely more 
hopeful for the connexion. With the death of Buller in 1848 it 
seemed that Grey on one side of the Atlantic and Elgin on the 
other were the only British statesmen who had not bowed the knee 
to Baal. Peel and Graham, Stanley and Gladstone, obsessed with 
the mechanics of colonial government, saw no interest in preserv- 
ing the colonies an opinion which Grey found prevalent in the 
House of Commons even 'in the highest quarters. . . . Nor do I find 
some members of the Cabinet free from it. ... It is the existence 
of this feeling which is to me by far the most serious cause of 
apprehension for the future.' 3 On February 8, 1850, Lord John 
Russell himself made his long-awaited speech with 'the sting in the 
taiP a forecast of independence which Elgin in anger and vexa- 
tion deplored as 'one of that class of prophecies which work their 
own fulfilment'. 

Elgin's rejoinder is the best known of all his published letters. 

1 'Since I changed my Govt. no fte or Party that I have given has ever been 
noticed by one of them. 1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence > Nov. i, 1849. 
3 Id. y June u, Aug. 20, 1849. 
3 Id. t Grey to Elgin, Mar. 22, May 18, 1849. 


Its most poignant passage must have gratified Grey. It turned upon 
the man whose protestations of loyalty Metcalfe had pronounced 
'utterly worthless* but whose influence Elgin now held to be 'of 
more importance to the connexion than three regiments': 

'Baldwin had Lord John's speech in his hand. He is a man of singu- 
larly placid demeanor, but ... I never saw him so much moved. 
"Have you read the latter part of Lord J. Russell's speech?" he said 
to me. I nodded assent. "For myself," he added, "if the anticipa- 
tions therein expressed prove to be well founded, my interest in 
public affairs is gone for ever. But is it not hard upon us while we 
are labouring through good and evil report, to thwart the designs 
of those who would dismember the Empire, that our adversaries 
should be informed that the difference between them and the Prime 
Minister of England is only one of time ? " ' I 

The truth was that under responsible government both loyalty 
and the connexion were to be defined in Canada without 'rescripts 
from the Colonial Office'. For better or for worse Canada must 
be taken for what it was, with 'the establishment of the relation 
between them and the mother-country on the basis of mutual 
affection '. Upon this both Grey and Elgin were agreed. The old 
ideas of 'a Colonial Empire for the purpose of exercising dominion 
or dispensing patronage* or as a 'hot-bed for forcing commerce and 
manufactures' had been abandoned and renounced. Canada was 
to be retained 'neither by the golden links of protection, nor by 
the meshes of old-fashioned colonial office jobbing and chicane'. 
'The advantages of the connexion to both parties must in future 
be of a very different kind.' 2 Positive influence and direction were 
still in order, 3 but even here the spiritual values were paramount. 
Grey on his side wrote of the blessings 'of Christianity and civiliza- 
tion', of the 'authority of the British Crown ... at this moment the 
most powerful instrument under Providence, of maintaining peace 
and order in many extensive regions of the earth', and of moderat- 
ing the excesses of faction. Elgin, too, with the eye of faith saw 
countervailing values in Canada. How far these values on both 
sides were removed from the mere mechanics of administration 
Elgin was prepared to demonstrate. Henceforth all provincial 

1 ld. t Jan. 28, Mar. 23, 1850; Egerton and Grant, 323 f. 

- Elgin to Grey, Mar. 23, 1850, Nov. 8, 1849, Walrond, op. cit., pp. 119, 102; 
Grey to Elgin, May 4, 1848, Grey-Elgin Correspondence. 

3 Grey, for instance, refers repeatedly to the possible necessity of disallowing 
'that silliest of all silly policies, the meeting of commercial restrictions by counter 
restrictions'. Grey-Elgin Correspondence, passim. 


parties, cliques, and interests must 'bow before the authorities of 
Government House, Montreal, rather than those of Downing 
Street'. Unlike Durham and most of the Radicals, Elgin saw it 
was impossible to draw 'a line of demarcation' between Imperial 
and provincial interests. *I see nothing for it but that the Gover- 
nors should be responsible for the share which the Imperial 
Government may have . . . with the liability to be recalled and 
disavowed.' I He was prepared to contemplate a time 'when it may 
be expedient to allow the Colonists to elect their Governors', 
while Great Britain should be 'represented in the Colony by an 
Agent. ... If your Agent was well chosen and had a good status 
I am not sure but that the connexion might be kept up under such 
an arrangement quite as well and as profitably for England as under 
the present.' 2 At the same time none, then or since, has seen more 
clearly the vital and invaluable functions of the Crown in the 
practical working of responsible government. 'One thing is how- 
ever indispensable (he added) to the success of this or any other 
system of Colonial Government. . . . You must allow them to 
believe that without severing the bonds which unite them to Great 
Britain they may attain the degree of perfection and of social and 
political development to which organized communities of freemen 
have a right to aspire.' Not without faith was this to be avowed in 
1850, but Elgin, as we shall see, remained long enough in Canada 
to find much of this faith magnificently vindicated. 


A second change of vital importance owed not a little to Elgin's 
own robust faith in British institutions. He believed that responsi- 
ble government could transform the whole pathology of relations 
with the United States a distemper of British policy which was 
far more prevalent than many were ready to admit. The dread 
of annexation was scarcely less than an obsession. Grey and Elgin 
himself before his departure for Canada shared it, and Lord John 
Russell advocated a union of the British provinces that 'they might 
be likely to become an independent state instead of being merged 
in the Union'.s 

Now Elgin was quick to see that whatever was sincere in the 
annexationist movement culminating in the famous manifesto of 

1 Walrond, op. cit., pp. in, 114. 

* Elgin to Grey, Mar. 23, 1850, Grey-Elgin Correspondence, omitted in Wal- 
rond, op. cit., p. 116, and subsequent editions of this famous letter. 

3 /</., Grey to Elgin, Aug. 8, 1848. 


1849 was fundamentally economic a 'trade wind' of variable 
velocity. There were other ingredients vestiges of the old idea of 
keeping Canada 'English even at the expense of not being British*, 
Tory opposition to responsible government under 'rebel' auspices, 
and the sort of bravado which usually attends political irresponsi- 
bility. 'Whether merchants be bankrupt, stocks depreciated, roads 
bad, or seasons unfavourable annexation is invoked as the 
remedy for all ills imaginary or real.' I Even the economic motives, 
however sincere, were not always sound. 'The political economy 
of Mr. Merritt', wrote Grey, 'is certainly of the lowest order.' 2 

Elgin dealt with annexation in three ways. For the 'sincere con- 
victions ' of annexationists he had economic remedies to propose 
'free navigation and reciprocity trade with the States are indispens- 
able.^ Elgin's economic gospel, culminating in the most brilliant of 
his diplomatic achievements, the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854, lies 
beyond the scope of this essay, though it may be noted that his 
insistence upon it invited criticism from apostolic free-traders like 
Grey, and that prosperity in fact did return to Canada long before 
it was consummated. The more flagitious aspects of annexation 
Elgin assailed without compunction. His ministers dismissed the 
militia officers, magistrates, and Q.C.s who signed the manifesto 
of 1849, and beyond a doubt the removal of the capital from 
Montreal 'this hot bed of prejudice and disaffection' where the 
whole agitation was concentrated was regarded by Elgin as one of 
the chief factors in the speedy collapse of the movement. 4 

1 Id., Elgin to Grey, Mar. 14, 1849. 

1 Referring to a protectionist letter from Merritt to Elgin, Oct. 24, 1849. Id., 
Nov. 30, 1849. 

3 Id., Mar. 14, 1849. The repeal of the Navigation Laws was not forced 
through by Grey until 1849. 

* Id., passhn. 'You find in this city I believe the most Anti-British specimens 
of each class of which our community consists. The Montreal French are the most 
Yankeefied French in the Province the British, though furiously anti-Gallican, 
are, with some exceptions, the least loyal and the commercial men the most 
jealous annexationists which Canada furnishes. It must, I think, do great mis- 
chief to the members who come from other parts of the Province.* (Sept. 3, 
1849.) 'I believe that if we had returned (to Montreal) this complex iniquity 
would have worked the desired result and that the annexation mania would 
have spread rapidly through U.C. . . . The removal of the seat of Govt. was 
absolutely necessary to keep it right.' (Oct. 25, 1849.) 'Their journals (six out 
of seven were anti-ministerialist) are the only authorities on Canadian affairs 
ever quoted either in the U. States or in England. . . . The allegation, that Canada 
is ruined, that the people are generally disaffected to Great Britain and that the 
local government is imbecile or traitorous becomes established as a truism in 
the Public mind/ (Nov. i, 1849.) 


But there was a third and in Elgin's opinion a more fundamental 
remedy. It was the demonstration of responsible government 
together with the removal of the seat of government from Montreal 
which led 'under Providence ... to the check which the desire 
for annexation has received'. But for this 'the annexation cry 
would have run over the country like wild fire'. 1 Evidence to the 
same effect could be multiplied from the Grey-Elgin Correspon- 
dence. Stanley suggested 'amid cheers' of Tory followers that Grey 
4 had already established a Republic in Canada!' 

'Now I believe, on the contrary (wrote Elgin), that it may be demon- 
strated that the concession of Constitutional Government has a ten- 
dency to draw the Colonists the other way. ... It habituates the 
Colonists to the working of a political mechanism which is both in- 
trinsically superior to that of the Yankees, and more unlike it than 
our old colonial system. 2 

The faithful carrying out of the principles of constitutional Govt. is 
a departure from the American model, not an approximation to it. ... 
Of the soundness of this view of our case I entertain no doubt whatso- 
ever. . . . The fact is that the Yankee system is our old Colonial system 
with, in certain cases, the principle of popular election substituted 
for that of nomination by the Crown. 3 

When a people have been once thoroughly accustomed to the work- 
ing of such a Parliamentary system as ours, they never will consent to 
revert to this clumsy irresponsible mechanism.' 4 

It is unnecessary to follow Elgin into his good-humoured and 
never malicious criticism of the American system, but he once 
remarked that he seldom failed to carry his point ; and his converts 
included his old colleague at Merton, Sir Edmund Head, Sir 
Henry Bulwer, British plenipotentiary at Washington, and Grey 
himself. With this sheet-anchor to windward he embarked 
fearlessly upon the most favourable commercial relations it was 
possible to get with the United States. Though not at first without 
misgivings, he reached finally the conviction that it was commer- 
cial restriction not commercial intercourse which generated the 
desire for annexation. In that sense reciprocity, far from leading 
to annexation was its most effective antidote.5 In the Reciprocity 

1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, Dec. 17, Dec. 10, 1849. a Id., Dec. 17, 1850. 

3 Id., Nov. i, 1850. 4 Walrond, op. cit., p, 121. 

5 This was clearly seen by both Canadian and American annexationist papers 
like the Courier, Herald, and Witness of Montreal, and the New York Tribune, 
which consistently opposed reciprocity. Cf. Grey-Elgin Correspondence, June 
IT, July 2, July 23, Nov. 8, 1849; Jan. 28, 1850, Sec. 'Shrewd persons among the 


Treaty of 1854 which was due in no small measure to Elgin's cease- 
less advocacy with the Colonial Office and diplomatic skill at 
Washington he did not hesitate to carry his creed fearlessly into 
practice. The refinements of this theme which are later to be 
found in the speeches of Cartwright, Mowat, and Fielding, or in 
Edward Blake's masterly letter to the electors of West Durham, are 
not to be found in Elgin's letters ; but for the fundamental faith 
which underlies a British Dominion on this continent a Canadian 
nation with an undefended frontier and the kindliest of relations 
with the United States 1 Elgin may well be numbered among 
the first of the major prophets. 'To render annexation by violence 
impossible, and by any other means as improbable as may be ', he 
once defined as 'the polar star of my policy*. 'I have been pos- 
sessed (I used the word advisedly, for I fear that most persons in 
England still consider it a case of possession) with the idea that it 
is possible to maintain on this soil of North America, and in the 
face of Republican America, British connexion and British institu- 
tions, if you give the latter freely and trustingly.' 2 Yet his popu- 
larity at Buffalo, at Boston, and at Washington, and with visiting 
Americans in Canada, was prodigious. Despite the over-clever 
pages of Oliphant it was won without malice and without chicane ; 
and it was enhanced rather than impaired by his robust faith in 
his own cause. 

anncxationists perceive that their game is up if reciprocity is procured.' 'The 
annexationists are moving heaven & earth at Washington to prevent the passage 
of the Reciprocity Bill.' The Southern States at first opposed the Bill fearing 
it would lead to annexation of 'free' territory to the Union, but sounder views 
soon prevailed and Elgin found them his chief allies in 1854. 

1 To Grey's plaints of military expenditure for the defence of Canada Elgin 
once replied with a touch of impatience: 'Only one absurdity can be greater, 
pardon me for saying so, than the absurdity of supposing that the British 
Parliament will pay 200,000 for Canadian Fortifications. It is the absurdity 
of supposing that the Canadians will pay it themselves . . . 200,000 on Defences ! 
and against whom? Against the Yankees. Your own kindred a flourishing 
swaggering people who are ready to make room for you at their own table. . . . 
You are just as little able to cope against the power of the States with 5,000 men 
as with 3,000.' (Dec. 17, 1849, Grey-Elgin Correspondence.) In a second letter 
of the same date Elgin with characteristic humour and goodwill referred to the 
United States as 'a community . . . which never makes a bargain without getting 
at least twice as much as it gives ... a community the members of which have 
been within the last few weeks pouring into their multifarious places of worship 
to thank God that they are exempt from the ills which afflict other men.' 

2 Walrond, op. cit., pp. 161, 126. Cf. Elgin to Grey, Dec. 17, 1849: 'I have 
deprived the advocates of annexation of every pretext which could grace or 
dignify rebellion . . . they are compelled to put forward . . . reasons which never 
would tempt a man to shed his blood or to risk his fortune except as a speculation.' 

34^ T t 



Responsible government was the beginning, not the completion, 
of self-government ; and its greatest task like that of Elgin himself 
was the political education of the Canadian people to what he 
called 'national and manly morals'. The whole problem, as he saw 
it, was to ' carry on the war here long enough to allow the principles 
of Constitutional Government and the habits of mind which it 
engenders to take root*. 1 

A correspondent in Upper Canada told the simple truth: 
'Canada has all along been its own worst enemy. Its factions have 
been its curse/ Elgin 's own faith sometimes wavered. Extremists 
were 'rabid and unreasonable'. The worst phases of French 
nationalism and Upper Canadian radicalism were alike forbidding. 2 
If one had 'no notion of fair play', the other was prone to 'plunge 
at once into the most reckless opposition'. Demagogism was ram- 
pant, and 'with a thousand other mutual suspicions and repulsions, 
it is hardly possible to touch any part of this rickety machine 
without bringing the whole about one's ears 5 . 3 

The only effective political education here was of course self- 
education, but the value of Elgin's example was beyond calcula- 
tion. 'My business', he once said, 'is to humanize not to harden. 
At that task I must labour, through obloquy and misrepresenta- 
tion if needs be'. 4 His whole term in Canada was a series of object- 
lessons. He found the French embittered and almost proscribed. 
Before he left, it was his boast that 'on one point all are agreed. 
We must have done with this habit of abusing the French, we 
must live with them on terms of amity and affection. Such is the 
first fruit of my policy'. 'Who will venture to say', he asked in 
a more famous passage, 'that the last hand which waves the British 
flag on American ground may not be that of a French Canadian?' 5 
He lived, too, to see 'symptoms of a blush rising on the cheek' of the 
Montreal Tories. In truth their conduct could not be contemplated 
without shame and without profit.. Less than three years after the 
Montreal riots a general election took place in Canada without 

1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, Nov. i, 1850. Cf. Grey to Elgin, id., May 18, 
1849 : 'The main object of our policy ought to be to support the hopes & courage 
of the Canadians until their natural advantages begin to tell.* 

a 'Candor compels me to state that in these respects the conduct of the Anglo- 
Saxon portion of our M.P.P.'s contrasts most unfavourably with that of the 
Gallican.' Id., Aug. 2, 1850. 

3 Id., July 2, 1849. Walrond, op. cit., p. 96. 

5 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, July 9, 1849; May 4, 1848. 


stirring an issue on 'the connexion with England, the Union of the 
Canadas ... or the Governor General*. Elgin dined in Toronto 
with Morin on one side, MacNab on the other, and with Papineau 
among his guests. For the famous visit to Boston in 1851 Elgin 
was invited by 'the Montr ealers ... by an unanimous vote of the 
Corporation to go with them'. 1 

All this Elgin did not hesitate to attribute to constitutional 
government fearlessly and justly carried out. On at least one occa- 
sion he had 'stood literally alone'. In that sense responsible govern- 
ment was not a reward but a remedy. By concentrating the fury 
of the rioters upon himself and avoiding bloodshed he had 'left the 
door open', as he wrote at the time, to those who should one day 
say, 'he has only been carrying out fairly the principles of responsi- 
ble Government'. If this, as Professor Morison has finely said, was 
the most heroic thing he did in Canada, his magnanimity too was 
heroic. He was too great a man to keep a grudge. At his farewell 
to Montreal in 1854 he recounted with deep emotion the memories 
which he expected to carry with him from Canada: 'And I shall 
forget but no what I might have had to forget is forgotten al- 
ready ; and therefore I cannot tell you what I shall forget.' 2 At the 
same time this 'moral victory', though chivalrously addressed to 
the highest motives of human conduct, had a less exalted faith to 
work upon. After the riots in Montreal he travelled unattended 
through Upper Canada, meeting 'the bhoys' on their own ground. 
A single touch of superciliousness here would spoil the picture ; 
but it is not to be found. The truth was he had faith in this people. 
At Niagara he once dined 'in the presence of 6 or 700 substantial 
Upper Canadian Yeomen, a body of men not easily to be matched'. 
It was 'a glorious country'. Whether for 'knowledge of man or 
nature' there were materials here for 'the future of Nations'. Thus 
while he could not fail to see the worst, Elgin looked also for the 
best and found it. 

No man was ever more successful in raising the level of magna- 
nimity and public life in Canada by the simple expedient of taking 
men at their best. Baldwin's character too made a profound im- 
pression upon Elgin. Their relations showed 'the most sincere 
esteem', and though Baldwin's resignation in 1851 in disgust at 
his desertion by the Clear Grits on 'the chancery question' was 
a bad sign of the times, Elgin still believed that 'the sacrifice of 

1 Id., Dec. 19, July 5, Sept. n, 1851. 

3 Id., Apr. 12, 1849; Morison, op. cit., p. 227; Walrond, op. cit., p. 167. 


office by such a man for the sake of principle may do good*. La 
Fontaine was a gentleman. One of his * excellent speeches' on 
the Clergy Reserves in 1850 was 'admitted on all sides to have 
been one of the most able and statesmanlike ever made in the 
Canadian Parliament*. Lord John Russell himself suggested a 
baronetcy ; and though La Fontaine too, like Baldwin and Sullivan, 
retired in disgust with the 'tracasseries of Political life', he left an 
abiding influence upon Canadian polities. Hincks, in Elgin's 
opinion, had 'more energy than all the Canadian Statesmen I have 
yet had to do with put together'. In the controversy with the 
British Treasury over the Currency Bill Grey himself conceded 
that 'Hincks has much the best of it'. 1 Here and there a com- 
mercial report, an article from the press, or a lecture which Grey 
had time to read, did 'infinite credit to Canada' : the province stood 
Very high among the nations of the world in the scale of intelli- 
gence'. With the return of prosperity the phenomenal growth of 
the country was in itself imposing. Assessable property in Upper 
Canada had more than trebled in twenty years. The population 
of the united province was nearly two millions and a half. Faith 
of a very material order was not difficult in a community like 

Upon the personnel of parties responsible government naturally 
acted as a dissolvent. It had long been the fashion of governors 
and the Colonial Office to disparage 'party'; as though political 
issues did not create parties on this side of the Atlantic, and as 
though the most vital issue for the Commonwealth were not at that 
time responsible government. In truth if ever there was a party, in 
Burke's sense, in Canada before Confederation, united for pro- 
moting the national interest upon some particular principle upon 
which they were all agreed, it was the band of Irish and French and 
British Reformers who united in defiance of a score of minor di- 
vergencies of interest, in order to force responsible government. 
The danger came, as it always comes, when the 'principle' was 
finally vindicated. The bonds of 'party' are then dissolved, and 
all the latent tendencies towards 'faction' begin to reassert them- 
selves during that critical period of flux and flow before new issues 
can force a realignment. 

Now while Grey saw that 'the system now established in Canada 
is that of Party Government, that is to say government by means 

1 Grey-Elgin Correspondence, July 5, 1851 ; June 28, 1850; May 17, June 13, 
1851, &c. 


of parties', 1 both he and Elgin welcomed the disintegration which 
responsible government itself was sure to bring. The form which 
it took, however, was not that which Elgin and Bagot had antici- 
pated. Both correctly foresaw that the French would be 'rescued 
from a false position into which they had been driven', and would 
become 'essentially a conservative element in the Canadian com- 
pound* ; but the truth was that Canada under the Union was much 
too complex for clear cut policies. It was necessary to hobble 
forward upon the twin crutches of 'double majorities' and coali- 
tions. 2 In 1850 Elgin had compared 'the party of which Mr. 
Baldwin is at the head ... a party liberal though conservative of 
the Institutions of the Country', to Lord John Russell's party in 
Britain, beset by Radicals and held together by Tories. But as the 
Clear Grits gained in momentum, the old reformers themselves 
became conservative. La Fontaine's last great speech carried him 
almost into the arms of the Tories. 'II faut jeter 1'ancre de la 
Constitution', exclaimed Baldwin; and when he resigned in 1851 
Elgin regarded him as the 'most Conservative public man in 
Canada'. 3 Power passed to 'practical politicians' who were not 
squeamish as to methods to coalitions and 'perpetual ministerial 
crises' culminating in dead- lock and Confederation. 

In a sense also Elgin's fine conception of his own office was 
transitional. The fundamental change was permanent. He was to 
be a 'moderator between parties, the representative of interests 
which are common to all ... as distinct from those which divide 
them into parties'. We have seen how shrewd and kindly and 
wordly-wise was his advice, and how cautiously he trod the 'some- 
what narrow and slippery' path between 'the nant of mock- 
sovereignty' on the one side and 'the dirt and confusion of local 
factions' on the other. 4 But the governor-generalship of Elgin is 
not that of to-day. The help which he gave to his ministers was 
perhaps too material to please their opponents, and it was poor 
comfort to know that he would have acted with equal goodwill 
towards themselves. Thus John A. Macdonald carried forward 
into Canadian politics a tradition that Elgin was more than just to 

1 Colonial Policy , p. 33. 

* Grey-Elgin Correspondence, Aug. 2, 1850. It is interesting to note that Bald- 
win who had opposed the former as certain to 'perpetuate distinctions . . . and 
sap thefoundation of political morality' (Baldwin Papers, i. looXcommendedthe 
second under Hincks in 1851. 

3 Id., Nov. 22, Mar. 23, 1850; June 28, 1851. 

4 Walrond, op. cit., p. 96. Grey-Elgin Correspondence, July 13, 1847. 


the Reformers; and it is curious to recall that Baldwin and La 
Fontaine themselves had objected to the name of Buller as Met- 
calfe's successor because 'he would be disposed to take an active 
part himself, like Lord Sydenham, in our politics'. 1 Elgin was 
wont to say that in Jamaica he had 'not half the power I have here 
with my constitutional and changing Cabinet'. In 1862 he com- 
pared his powers as Governor- General of India unfavourably with 
the 'amount of influence which I exercised over the march of 
events in Canada, where I governed on strictly constitutional 
principles, and with a free Parliament'. It was to be 'an influence, 
however, wholly moral an influence of suasion, sympathy, and 
moderation, which softens the temper while it elevates the aims 
of local polities'. As the scope of responsible' government slowly 
broadened and deepened, this too, like the governor's relations 
with his Cabinet and with the Colonial Office itself, was profoundly 
modified. But the neutrality of the governor-general and his 
capacity of 'acting with such Ministers as the Constitution may 
impose upon him' had been 'the great Constitutional Principle' 
which Elgin had come to Canada to inaugurate. 'It is the practical 
illustration of this principle', he wrote, 'which will bring the theory 
of Constitutional Government in a Colony from the region of 
chimeras into that of facts.' 2 

1 La Fontaine to Baldwin, July 26, 1845, Baldzvin Papers, i. 96. 
* Walrond, op. cit., pp. 125, 126. Elgin to Grey, July 26, 1851, Grey-Elgin 



RESPONSIBLE government has been the most dynamic achievement 
of Canadian politics, and the Commonwealth may fairly be said to 
have begun when the principles were conceded which made it 
inevitable. More than a score of British provinces and Dominions 
have since passed from governance to self-government. Scarcely 
less dynamic than the change itself has been the method, for 
nothing has been more serviceable than this in enlarging the scope 
of responsible government to include all the attributes of nation- 
hood. The resulting change from the second Empire to the 
Commonwealth has transformed the whole basis of its unity. 

In the old province of Canada both the method and the change 
itself were quickly overshadowed by other issues. The decade 
from the MacNab-Morin administration of 1854 was filled with 
kaleidoscopic coalitions, all of them revolving about the axis of 
racial dualism. The system of 'double majorities' to include both 
races, was the last device of desperation. At its best it meant 
duplication of offices and expenditures, from 'the double-barrelled 
premiership' downward; at its worst it sanctioned the racial 
dualism and led to 'creeping paralysis and deadlock'. The escape 
from this 'chronic sectional hostility and discord* came only 
through Confederation. 

This also tended to obscure both the method and the true 
import of responsible government. The essence of federalism is 
the bond which defines the relationship between the constituent 
provinces and the federal government; and since this, by its very 
nature, is a 'written' instrument, it came to be associated not only 
with the series of statutory 'constitutions' the Quebec Act, the 
Constitutional Act, and the Act of Union which had already com- 
plicated the evolution of self-government in Canada, but with a 
'written constitution' like that of the United States. There has 
been a tendency to regard the British North America Act of 1867 as 
the 'constitution of Canada'. The conflict between federal and 
provincial powers in sections 91 and 92 of the Act bulks almost as 
large in our constitutional law as the issues of state rights in the 
United States. Thus Lord Bryce refers to 'the Canadian Constitu- 

tion' as having been * prepared by a group of colonial statesmen in 
1864 and enacted in 1867 by a statute of the British Parliament'. 1 
Dicey remarked, on one occasion, that the phrase 'a Constitution 
similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom' in the preamble 
of the B.N.A. Act of 1867 would be correct if instead of 'Kingdom' 
were written * States'. One of the most trenchant critics of con- 
stitutional anomalies in Canada once proposed a constituent 
convention with parliamentary sanctions to 'draft an amended 
constitution', 2 upon the principle that Canada was 'given the right 
to govern itself by the British North America Act of 1867'. Others 
have found a transition from the second Empire to a 'third' in the 
Great War, or have attributed more recent developments to sudden 
and inscrutable impulses. 

The historical approach to these tendencies leads to a very dif- 
ferent origin and a vastly different procedure. The normal evolution 
from governance to self-government in the second Empire is to be 
sought not in the written statute but in those unwritten 'conven- 
tions' which came to govern the relations between Crown, coun- 
cils, and Assemblies in the old 'royal' provinces. In that sense the 
most fundamental part of our constitution both provincial and 
federal is not, and never has been, 'written'. It is the result of a 
process which began long before the B.N.A. Act of 1867, and has 
since developed almost independently of that great measure. It 
is to be found in the change from Lord Russell's early conception 
of 'Colonial government' to that of Charles Buller and Lord Grey; 
and recent developments are found to be scarcely more than 
corollaries of principles that were vindicated seventy-five years ago. 
The method, too, has been distinctive; and it still remains the 
most useful yet devised for implementing the equality of status 
now conceded in theory among the nations of the British Common- 


The method of attaining responsible government followed very 
naturally from the British analogy. 

Nearly four centuries of parliamentary development had taken 
place in Great Britain before the Grand Remonstrance in 1641 
demanded ministers whom 'the Parliament may have cause to con- 
fide in'. Another century and a half passed before that project was 

1 Modern Democracies, ii. 459. 

* 'Just as our statesmen in 1867 drafted the British North America Act.' 


achieved by empirical methods so gradual in their operation that 
even in the early nineteenth century they had scarcely been re- 
duced to a body of political doctrine. Peel, as we have seen, could 
cite to Stanley the parliamentary tactics of Louis Philippe and the 
President of the United States: 'we know (he added) what George 
the Third did in 1783-4.' I It was Peel nevertheless who dictated 
to Queen Victoria the personnel of her ladies-in-waiting. 

In the primitive Assemblies of the 'royal' provinces, this British 
Constitution, vital, growing, indeterminate, was veritably planted 
in Canadian soil. There, too, its living principles defied definition 
in the 'written' statute. 'You have no Act of Parliament', wrote 
Howe to Lord John Russell, 'to define the duty of the Sovereign 
when ministers are in a minority; we want none to enable us to 
suggest to a Governor when his advisers have lost the confidence 
of our colonial Assemblies.' 2 Falkland found to his dismay that 
the process was inevitable, and that nothing indeed but a British 
statute could stop it. 3 Responsible government was thus an 'un- 
written' thing achieved not by Act of Parliament, British or Cana- 
dian, but by a new practice : 

'It needs no change (wrote Durham) in the principles of government, 
no invention of a new constitutional theory to supply the remedy. 
... It needs but to follow out consistently the principles of the 
British constitution, and introduce into the Government of these 
great Colonies those wise provisions by which alone the working of 
the representative system can in any country be rendered harmonious 
and efficient/ 

4 This change might be effected by a single dispatch containing such 
instructions. '4 

It remained for Durham's own brother-in-law to demonstrate 
this truth in the dispatch of November 3, 1846, to Sir John Harvey 
in Nova Scotia, enjoining, in Grey's own phrase, 'principles of 
general application to all colonies having a similar form of govern- 
ment'. 5 Under Grey's instructions the governor ceased to be, 
like Sydenham, the 'minister'; in time he ceased to be, like Elgin, 
the political mentor of his 'Cabinet'; he ceased to attend, after the 

1 Cf. Stanley to Bagot, Sept. i, 1842: 'He has had no incopsiderable experi- 
ence in playing the game which he recommends.' Bagot Papers, ix. 151. 
3 Chisholm, op. cit.> i. 613-14. 

3 See above, p. 225. 

4 Report^ ed. Lucas, ii. 278, 280. 

5 The Colonial Policy of the Administration of Lord John Russell, p. 208. 
3413 u u 

manner of Sir Edmund Head, their meetings; on July i, 1927 
ceased to correspond officially with the Dominion Office ex< 
through his responsible ministers. This position, analogous 
that of the Crown in Great Britain, has also been reached nol 
Act of Parliament, nor by the terms of a 'written' constitution, 
by usage and 'convention'. 

While it is true moreover that responsible government was c 
cerned primarily with the control of the executive, it has been 
key, as Hincks and Durham saw from the outset, to the con 
of everything else. It has been used more than once to vindi 
autonomy in legislation. To British protests against the Canac 
tariff schedule of 1859, Gait replied effectively that 'Her Maj 
cannot be advised to disallow such acts unless her advisers 
prepared to assume the administration of the affairs of the Colo 
In truth responsible government so far tempered the legisla 
supremacy still vested technically in the British Parliament 
critics of this anomaly are hard put to it to devise a satisfad 
substitute. Nor is this the result altogether of negative virtue 
restraint. For speed and flexibility, the technical supremacy of 
British Parliament has proved a godsend in more than one en 
gency . Sir Edmund Head in his first project of a British Ameri 
federation in 1854 foresaw its strategic value in escaping the wile 
ness of ratifications which had jeopardized the Constitution of 
United States. 1 It is safe to say that the Canadian Confederal 
could never have been effected in its present form had it not b 
possible to carry the B.N.A. Act of 1867, as Macdonald wr 
'per saltum'. No fewer than six amendments to the Act, moreo 
have been sought by the same procedure, and the most flex 
method of self-amendment hitherto projected would be initu 
in the same way. If the Colonial Laws Validity Act and ol 
'vestigial anomalies' of the second Empire remain, it has b 
because the spirit of the Commonwealth, discernible through 
the whole era of responsible government, robbed them long si 
of their danger, and made forever impossible the fatal policy wl 
stirred the first Empire to suspicion and revolt the triple mer 
of imperial Acts, administered by imperial officials, and enfor 
in imperial courts without juries. Such has been the range of it 
unwritten 'conventions' by which responsible government 
effected three generations ago. 

1 Head's Draft of a Memorandum . . . sent privately to Lord Grey, 1854, / 
Papers, Pub. Arch. Can. 


The range of powers now exercised by responsible ministers war- 
rants a second corollary. The scope of responsible government has 
never been successfully defined, and indeed no attempt has ever 
been made to define it by legislation. The historic phrase appears 
in no statute. The principles of responsible government are un- 
known to administrative law. The * conventions' of the system, as 
Lord Grey wrote in 1850, 'stand on the faith of the Crown'; 1 and 
it may be added, on the faith of the Houses of Parliament. The 
range of power, both direct and indirect, claimed by responsible 
ministers has steadily and inexorably expanded. It will suffice to 
examine very briefly three or four instances of this expansion. 

It is well known that Lord Durham himself, the apostle of 
responsible government, conceived it possible to reserve three or 
four spheres of government for imperial control : 

'The constitution of the form of government, the regulation of 
foreign relations, and of trade with the mother country, the other 
British Colonies, and foreign nations, and the disposal of public 
lands, are the only points on which the mother country requires a 
control.' 2 

The fate of these reservations is instructive. Not one of them 
has survived intact, and at least one of them was still-born in the 
Report in which it was recommended. Gibbon Wakefield's project 
for imperial control of public lands in the interests of imperial 
land-settlement was incompatible with the first principles of re- 
sponsible government in Canada, since it was the control of public 
lands, and particularly the issue of clergy reserves, which had 
forced the larger issue in its acutest and most convincing form. Of 
all the reservations conceded by Durham this was the first to go by 
the board. The administration of crown lands by locally respons- 
ible ministers followed as the first-fruits of responsible government. 

Durham's second reservation has disappeared more slowly. The 
regulation of trade was an integral part of the mercantile theory 
under which British colonization in the early eighteenth century 

1 When the Assembly of Prince Edward Island wished to make a Civil List 
Bill contingent upon the granting of 'responsible government*. Grey to Banner- 
man, Jan. 31, 1 8 51, Journals, 1851, Appendix D. 

2 It is fair to add that Durham's argument is addressed to the Melbourne 
Whigs who were not prepared to concede the responsibility of ministers even 
for local administration, and that Durham, as the context shows, does not 
necessarily regard these reservations as immutable in his project of responsible 


was supposed to flourish, and the importance attached to it coi 
be illustrated in profusion from the documents of the perk 
Governor Murray in Quebec was forbidden 'upon any Preter 
whatever, upon pain of our highest Displeasure* to assent to 'a 
Law or Laws for setting up any Manufactures and carrying on a 
Trades, which are hurtful and prejudicial to this Kingdon 
The American Revolution 'knocked the bottom out of the muc 
vaunted mercantile system', since it was found that trade with 1 
independent states of America was vastly greater than trade w 
dependent colonies. Reciprocity was substituted for monopoly 
the mercantile system, but even the abolition of the corn laws a 
the adoption of free trade in Britain meant 'the triumph of ft 
trade and not of freedom*. Grey himself refused to concede 1 
issue : 'the question . . . was nothing less than whether the Impel 
Government . . . should abandon the authority it had alwi 
exercised of regulating the commercial policy of the whole Empi 
and should permit every separate colony to legislate without 
striction on commercial subjects. We came to the conclusion tl 
this change could not be acquiesced in.' 2 Hincks, then Canadi 
Inspector- General, in introducing his budget in 1849, took 1 
view that a differential protective tariff for Canada would be tan 
mount to a declaration of independence. 

Ten years later imperial fiscal control was supplanted afte 
memorable passage at arms between the Duke of Newcasl 
Secretary for the Colonies, and the Hon. A. T. Gait. Gait's ta 
schedule of 1859 brought the well-known protest from the Sh 
field manufacturers to the Colonial Office. Denouncing the Cai 
dian fiscal programme as 'indecent and a reproach' to the w< 
considered British policy of free trade, they maintained that *P 
Majesty's Government has a right to demand that what revenue 
needed shall be raised in some other way*. 

Gait's memorable reply carried with it the deliberate opinion 
the Canadian cabinet: 

The Government of Canada acting for its Legislature and peo 
cannot, through those feelings of deference which they owe to 
Imperial authorities, -in any manner waive or diminish the right 
the people of Canada to decide for themselves both as to the mode '<. 
extent to which taxation shall be imposed. . . . 

' . . . . Responsibility in all general questions of policy must be 

1 Shortt and Doughty, i. 200. 

2 Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration , i. 284. 


the Provincial Parliament by whose confidence they administer the 
affairs of the country. . . . 

Her Majesty cannot be advised to disallow such Acts, unless her 
advisers are prepared to assume the administration of the affairs of 
the Colony irrespective of the views of its inhabitants/ * 

The negotiation of trade regulations with foreign countries was 
more difficult to effect because Canadian ministers here encoun- 
tered that veritable Cerberus of state at that time, the per- 
manent staff of the Foreign Office. The various stages, however, 
from Gait's own negotiations with the French consul ('no official 
correspondence could take place') and the very subordinate part 
played by Hincks, Merritt, and Chandler in Elgin's Reciprocity 
Treaty with the United States, to Sir Charles Tupper's mission to 
France in 1893, Sir Wilfrid Laurier's in 1907, the Hon. Mr. 
Fielding's in 1922, and the Hon. Mr. Lapointe's to Washington in 
1923, might be described by the formula already employed. With- 
in a steadily broadening horizon of Canadian policy a horizon 
bounded not by legislation but by the legitimate interests of the 
Canadian people the Crown has come to act, 'in fact, if not al- 
ways in form', upon the advice of Canadian ministers. 

A third reservation was of course taken for granted in 1839 the 
control of foreign policy with its implication of defence both naval 
and military. The development of British provinces from com- 
parative defencelessness to self-defence and finally to offensive 
warfare on no mean scale in the Great War requires little detailed 
illustration. The Trent affair, the defeat of ttie Militia Bill, the 
pessimism of official British opinion with regard to the defence of 
the British American provinces, all preceded Confederation and in 
the end expedited that great measure. The first Kiel Insurrection 
in 1870 was dealt with by a joint British and Canadian force com- 
manded for obvious reasons of policy by a British officer, Sir 
Garnet Wolseley. The Kiel Rebellion of 1885, however, was 
quelled by a purely Canadian force under Canadian command, and 
it was perhaps significant that in the same year Sir John A. Mac- 
donald not only declined to assume any responsibility for the war 
in the Soudan, but suggested a new basis for reciprocal defence. 
Writing to Sir Charles Tupper, then High Commissioner in 
London, Sir John used language that was not to be mistaken: 

'Our men and money would, therefore, be sacrificed to get Glad- 
stone and Co. out of the hole they have plunged themselves into by 

1 Egerton and Grant, p. 350. 


their own imbecility. . . . The reciprocal aid . . . should be a matter 
of treaty entered into and settled on a permanent basis.' 1 

During the South African War British troops were withdrawn 
from garrison duty in Canada and significantly again Canadian 
troops were enlisted for service in South Africa. During the Great 
War half a million men were enlisted, and during the closing 
months of the war conscripted, for service on the western front. 
The Canadian force was equipped, paid, and controlled by the 
Parliament of Canada. 

The repercussion of this upon external policy was to be expected. 
Complete control of the military and naval resources of Canada, 
and above all of the fiscal resources upon wjhich both depend, can 
never in the long run be divorced from responsibility for the way 
in which such resources are to be used. Without pursuing at this 
stage the development to the peace conference and beyond, it will 
be conceded that here also the range of responsible government has 
long since passed the limitations contemplated by Durham in 1839. 

The last reservation the form of the constitution has yielded 
to local control least rapidly of all in theory but no less effectually 
perhaps in practice. Certain 'written' elements in our constitution 
have been, and still are, Acts of the Imperial Parliament, but even 
the Union Bill of 1840 was drafted by Chief Justice Stuart of 
Lower Canada, and it went to London with the support of the 
Upper Canadian electorate. The terms of the B.N.A. Act of 1867 
were almost exclusively the result of Canadian statesmanship, 
though it must be conceded that had its final enactment depended 
not upon the British Parliament but upon a constituent convention 
or a two-thirds majority in the provincial legislatures, the Canadian 
Confederation as we know it would never have come into being. 
The far-reaching amendment of 1871 (as in 1875, 1886, 1907, and 
1915) was drafted in Ottawa and passed so perfunctorily in London 
that it was regarded then and since as a measure of domestic 
legislation. If present tendencies hold it can scarcely be gainsaid 
that statutory amendment to the *written' part of our constitution 
may come, in practice, to be as easy as in any federal constitution 
in the world; far easier than in the United States or Australia; 
perhaps too easy rather than too difficult. It is thus seen that all of 
Durham's reservations have gone by the board in whole or in part, 
in practice if not in theory. The range of responsible government 

1 Correspondence of Sir Jolm A. Macdonald t ed. Pope, Toronto, 1921, p. 338, 


has steadily and automatically expanded with the legitimate in- 
terests of the Canadian people, and the flexibility of this process 
will invite the same jealous regard for local responsibility in what- 
ever sphere those interests may come to be engaged. 


These two corollaries will support, perhaps, a third: that the B.N.A. 
Act of 1867 made no fundamental difference whatever in the prac- 
tice of responsible government, though Confederation naturally 
quickened its operation and in the end added immeasurably to its 

Had Sir John A. Macdonald's frank preference for legislative 
union prevailed, another simple Union Act would have provided 
for the fusion of powers already enjoyed by the provincial legisla- 
tures. For reasons that are well known it was necessary to fall back 
upon the federal plan, with the result that certain powers only were 
fused into a national federal government while other powers con- 
tinued in the several provinces. Far from originating or even 
amplifying 'responsible' self-government, the B.N.A. Act of 1867 
thus divided between federal and provincial governments the 
aggregate of self-government already enjoyed by the original pro- 
vinces. 1 That division is of the essence of any federal system, and 
it was effected necessarily by a 'written' instrument. The ultimate 
value of Confederation in multiplying the resources of the British 
provinces, broadening their interests, and increasing their momen- 
tum towards full pan-Canadian nationhood, was of course beyond 
calculation; but the B.N,A. Act of 1867 left the ratio between 
governance and self-government at that time undisturbed. The 
cardinal principles of responsible government remain unchanged ; 
there is still no attempt to define the range of its operation ; that 
range continued to expand with greater inevitableness than ever 
and by the same methods. 

Let us illustrate very briefly each of these points. 

The cardinal principles of responsible government are safe- 
guarded in the B.N.A. Act of 1867 in a very characteristic British 
way: by a phrase which, if it were to appear in the Constitution of 
the United States, would mean exactly the reverse of the practice 
which it warrants in Canada. Section 9 of the Act provides that 
'the Executive Government . . . is hereby declared to continue and 
be vested in the Queen'. Behind this phraseology lie two centuries 
1 B.N.A. Act, 1867, s. 12. 

of history and * unwritten 5 convention from Pym and Hampden to 
Walpole and Chatham and Rockingham and Addington and Dur- 
ham and Elgin and Joseph Howe. 1 What sections 9 and 63 really 
mean is that by these unwritten conventions the Crown is bound 
in honour to act upon the advice of ministers responsible to the 
Dominion and provincial legislatures. The very terms of the 
B.N.A. Act of 1867 would be incomprehensible without this 
unwritten law and custom of the constitution. 

The second point scarcely requires illustration. It is one of the 
most remarkable features of the venerable instrument of 1867 that 
the relationship between the Dominion and Great Britain as well 
as that between the Dominion and foreign countries is left so 
largely undefined. There is not a word about the appointment of 
the Governor- General, whether he is to be appointed upon the 
advice of British or (as in the case of the Lieutenant-Governors of 
Provinces) of Canadian ministers. Similarly in section 9 'the 
Executive Government ... is hereby declared to continue and be 
vested in the Queen' there would seem to be nothing repugnant 
to the widest action of the Crown, international as well as internal, 
upon the advice of Canadian ministers. It is now more than sixty 
years since Sir John A. Macdonald declared that 'we are standing 
on the very threshold of nations' ; that 'we are fast ceasing to be a 
dependency, and assuming the position of an ally of Great Britain* 
in a world-wide 'confederacy'. Not less memorable than the writ- 
ten federal bond of the Dominion was the faith in the cogency of 
time and of the unwritten conventions of a constitution 'similar in 
principle (as the preamble to the B.N.A. Act of 1867 states) to that 
of the United Kingdom'. 

The continued broadening of 'responsible' self-government 
since 1867 by this method could be illustrated in great detail. Two 
developments only may suffice : the rapidly narrowing functions of 
the Governor-General and the rapidly expanding responsibilities 
of Canadian ministers in external affairs. 

Three centuries of change in the functions of the Crown in Great 
Britain have been effected in the functions of the Governor- 
General in the Dominions in less than three generations. In 1841 
Sydenham advised Melbourne to send out as his successor a man 
'who will govern, as I do, himself? Sydenham claimed that his 
system was 'perfectly stable' and that 'everything will be in 

1 For the provinces, cf. B.N.A. Act, 1867, s. 63, &c. 

a Sydenham to Melbourne, Lord Melbourne's Papers, p. 449. 


grooves running of itself. At the Imperial Conference of 1926 it 
was agreed that the Governor- General was to hold 'in all essential 
respects the same position in relation to the administration of 
public affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King 
in Great Britain, and that he is not the representative or agent of 
His Majesty's Government in Great Britain or any Department of 
that Government'. This whole transformation has taken place 
within the lifetime of men now living. 

The withdrawal of Sir Edmund Head from the presidency of the 
Canadian Executive Council during the 'fifties reflected the grow- 
ing power and joint responsibility of the Canadian cabinet. After 
Confederation the same tendencies prevailed, despite the vastly 
increased prestige of the Governor- General. In 1876 Lord Car- 
narvon, the Colonial Secretary, in seeking to standardize instruc- 
tions from the Colonial Office, authorized the Governor-General 
to preside in person over the Canadian cabinet with power to 
accept or reject their advice. It fell to the lot of Edward Blake to 
vindicate anew the doctrine of cabinet responsibility in Canada. 
In 1875 for the last time the prerogative of pardon was exercised by 
the Governor-General upon his own responsibility. Thenceforth 
it was to be exercised only upon the advice of the Canadian cabinet 
and the Minister of Justice. After Blake's state paper the Gover- 
nor-General no longer reserved certain Canadian Bills upon the 
instructions of the Colonial Office. By the B.N.A. Act of 1867, 
section 15, the command-in-chief of all naval and military forces 
in Canada, like the executive government itself, 'is hereby declared 
to continue and be vested in the Queen'. The Dundonald incident 
in 1904 made it clear that the Crown in Canada must act upon the 
advice not of the British War Office but of the Canadian Minister 
of Militia. The functions of the Governor-General in Canada have 
thus steadily approached those prescribed by custom and conven- 
tion for the Crown in Great Britain, and since July i, 1927, his 
official contacts with Great Britain have been through his respon- 
sible ministers. 

The broadening of the range of responsible government in exter- 
nal affairs is perhaps more spectacular, though here again the most 
fragmentary illustrations must suffice. Four years after Confedera- 
tion Sir John A. Macdonald signed the Treaty of Washington as 
one of the British plenipotentiaries the first Dominion minister 
to sign a British treaty. The mission itself, in Sir John's blunt 
phrase, was 'bungled . . . from beginning to end', but Macdonald 's 

34*2 X X 

share in it has been pronounced 'the finest chapter in the history 
of Canadian diplomacy'. Sir Charles Tupper's share in forcing 
through the Franco-Canadian Treaty of 1893, and Sir Wilfrid 
Laurier's in 1907, have already been mentioned. 'Without revolu- 
tion, without any breaking of traditions, the time has come when 
Canadian interests are entrusted to Canadians. . . . A treaty has 
been concluded with France a treaty which applies to Canada 
alone, which has been negotiated by Canadians alone.' 1 

With Canada's participation in the World War the scope of 
responsible government crossed irretraceably the boundaries of the 
Dominion, and a nation was launched upon the high seas of world 
politics. It is well known that Sir Robert Borden, the Hon. Arthur 
Sifton, and the Hon. Mr. Doherty were given 'full powers' as 
plenipotentiaries at the Treaty of Versailles, though the Crown 
acted upon the advice of British ministers, and the Canadian order- 
in-council was apocryphal. The treaty, however, bears the Cana- 
dian signatures and was ratified by the Canadian Parliament. By 
signing the Peace Treaty the Dominions became members of the 
League of Nations, 'and their position', adds Sir Robert Borden, 
'as to membership and representation in the assembly is in all 
respects the same as that of other signatory members'. Canada has 
since been elected to a non-permanent seat in the Council of the 
League. A series of precedents from the Washington Disarma- 
ment Conference of 1921 to the Locarno Conference of 1925 has 
recognized the direct responsibility of Canadian ministers for the 
external relations of the Dominion. In 1908 a treaty adjusting 
certain points of the boundary between Canada and the United 
States was signed at Washington by Lord Bryce as plenipotentiary 
of the British Government. On February 24, 1925, a new treaty 
modifying and completing the same boundary, was signed by the 
Hon. Mr. Lapointe in the name of His Majesty 'in respect of the 
Dominion of Canada'. 3 In 1926 a comprehensive technique for 
treaties, based upon that of 1923, was devised by the Imperial 
Conference, providing for consultation within the Commonwealth, 
and 'full powers issued in each case by the King on the advice of 
the Government concerned'. The point has now been reached 
where the self-governing Dominions, in the historic words of the 

1 Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sept. 26, 1907, Porritt, Fiscal and Diplomatic Freedom 
of the British North American Dominions, p. 202. 

~ La Situation Internationale du Canada y par L'honorable M. Ernest Lapointe, 
Montreal, 1928, p. 10. 


Imperial Conference of 1926, are to be regarded as 'autonomous 
Communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way 
subordinate one to another in any aspect of their domestic or external 
affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown , and 
freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations'. 


It would be easy to prove that these dynamic principles which have 
been evolved empirically by statesmen in the field of politics con- 
form neither to the theories of the jurist nor to the letter of ad- 
ministrative law. Though unanimous that 'equality of status 1 was 
a constitutional right, the Imperial Conference of 1926 was also 
agreed that inequality of function was still to be found in practice : 

'Equality of status, so far as Britain and the Dominions are concerned, 
is thus the root principle governing our Inter-Imperial Relations. 
But the principle of equality and similarity, appropriate to status, do 
not universally extend to function.' 

In all three functions of government, executive, legislative, and 
judicial, anomalies abound. Despite the agreement at the Imperial 
Conference by statesmen who are in a position to implement that 
agreement in practice that in the making of treaties 'the pleni- 
potentiaries for the various British units should have full powers, 
issued in each case by the King on the advice of the Government 
concerned', 1 there are jurists who reserve an ultimate responsibility 
for British ministers, thus implying still the doctrine of Lord John 
Russell in 1839 that Dominion ministers cannot be 'advisers of the 
Crown of England ... for the Crown has other advisers for the 
same functions, and with superior authority*. 2 British legislative 
supremacy also has been apparent in the B.N.A. Acts, in the 
Commonwealth Act, in the South Africa Act of the British Parlia- 
ment ; and even the provisions for self-amendment in the last two 
are still interpreted as British statutes. Has the British Parliament 
which had power over the cause, power also over the effect? For 
the oldest of the Dominion federations, the B.N.A. Acts can still 
be amended only by other Acts of the British Parliament. The 
Canadian Parliament cannot legislate for Canadian ships upon the 
high seas. Beyond the three-mile limit a Canadian ceases to be 

1 Imperial Conference, 1926, Summary of Proceedings, Ottawa, 1926, p. 19. 
- Egerton and Grant, p. 267. Cf. Keith, Responsible Government in the Domi- 
nions, Oxford, 1927, I. xiii. 

amenable to Canadian law. The Colonial Laws Validity Act of 
1865, passed primarily to validate 'colonial laws' that are not re- 
pugnant to British statutes, implies the invalidity of those that are: 
and its repeal would raise problems as well as solve them. The 
British Merchant Shipping, Naturalization, and Copyright Acts still 
over-ride Dominion legislation. Since the Act for the Regulating 
the Privy Council and for taking away the Court commonly called 
the Star Chamber, passed by the Long Parliament in 1641, there 
has been no normal appeal in Great Britain to committees of the 
Privy Council. The Judicial. Committee of the Privy Council 
now regulated of course by statute still survives as a court of 
appeal for the Dominions. Without disputing the doctrine roundly 
laid down by Lord Morley that no right is worth a straw apart from 
the good that it brings, it may be noted that Sir Edmund Head, 
Elgin's successor in Canada in 1 854, emphatically rejected the juris- 
diction of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in his secret 
project of that year for a federation of the British Provinces. Can 
such 'vestigial anomalies' be reconciled with 'equality of status' ? 

This general remark may perhaps be made with regard to them: 
constitutional right may march far in advance of administrative 
law, but like the Pied Piper of Hamelin it has the sovereign faculty 
of drawing administrative law to follow in its footsteps. The 
Report of the Imperial Conference on Inter-Imperial Relations, 
unanimously adopted on November 19, 1926, may resemble the 
Petition of Right and the Declaration of Rights in providing in 
itself no administrative law, and in adding nothing altogether new 
perhaps to current conceptions of constitutional right. But a poli- 
tical principle which is once conceded to be a constitutional right 
seldom fails to find its way in the end into administrative law ; and 
the Report of 1926 'une reconnaissance par des egaux et des 
associ^s d'un etat de choses accepte par tous' can scarcely fail to 
prove a forecast of this historic procedure. The 'skill of jurists', 
writes Lawrence, 'toils far behind the constructive ingenuity of 
statesmen'. 1 

In truth the process from governance to self-government, as we 
have seen, has been the work not of jurists but of statesmen. It has 
been easy at every stage for the jurists to confound the statesmen 
with inconsistencies and antinomies. Familiar passages will occur 
from each cycle of this historic development. 'I do not enter into 
these metaphysical distinctions', exclaimed Burke at the most 

1 lion. Ernest Lapointe, La Situation Internationale du Canada, p. 6. 


critical stage of the American Revolution. 'I hate the very sound 
of them. ... If intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate 
and poison the very source of government, by urging subtle deduc- 
tions, and consequences odious to those you govern, from the 
unlimited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty you will 
teach them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in ques- 
tion.' In America, too, the same insight into the subtle relations 
between human nature and sound policy had led Benjamin Frank- 
lin to remind the greatest of colonial governors that 'in Matters of 
General Concern to the People ... it is of Use to consider as well 
what they will be apt to think and say, as what they ought to think'. 
Franklin's letter of 1754 became at once a melancholy proof of 
political insight and the most prophetic forecast of the Revolution. 1 

During the second cycle of this trilogy, Lord John Russell's 
theory of 'colonial government' was stated with unanswerable 
logic, and it was applied by the ablest of his governors in terms 
equally satisfactory to the jurist. The Executive Council was 'a 
council for the governor to consult, but no more. . . . There is no 
other theory which has common sense'. The governor 'must there- 
fore be the minister, in which case he cannot be under the control 
of men in the colony'. 2 The answer to this came not from the 
jurist but from the humble statesmanship of Howe and Huntington 
in Nova Scotia, and of Harrison, Baldwin, and La Fontaine in 
Canada. The same Assembly which Sydenham had so confidently 
'managed', forced his successor, in defiance alike of Lord John 
Russell's theory and of Stanley's instructions, t6 accept as 'minis- 
ters' those who could 'command a majority in the representative 
branch*. 'Whether the doctrine of responsible Government is 
openly acknowledged or is only tacitly acquiesced in/ wrote Bagot 
bluntly, 'virtually it exists.' 3 Let it be repeated that both in Nova 
Scotia and in Canada, responsible government was finally won not 
by spectacular feats of advocacy but as Buller had foretold, by the 
inexorable discipline of political parties upon the floors of the 
provincial Assemblies. 

The era since responsible government has been increasingly 
dominated by the statesman. Aside from the dark page of Irish 
history ' now a page that has been turned ' 4 and the heady 

1 Franklin to Shirley, Dec. 4, 1754, Correspondence of William Shirley , ed. 
Lincoln, i. 103. 

a Egerton and Grant, p. 280. 3 Oct. 18, 1842, Bagot Papers, v. 164. 

4 Sir Cecil Hurst in Great Britain and the Dominions, Harris Foundation 
Lectures, Chicago, 1927, p. 13. 

course of South Africa, leaping into self-government like Minerva 
full-armed from the head of Jupiter, the coming of the Common- 
wealth has been the result of empirical adjustments reached, 
upon the whole, in a spirit of mutual confidence. The key to this 
unprecedented harmony is not far to seek. The control which 
responsible ministers had won over local administration gave them, 
'in fact, if not in form', control over everything else. Jurisprudence 
has yielded to politics. More than thirty of these landmarks one 
for every three years could be cited to illustrate the patient 
adaptation of legal theories to political realities. The formulae of 
jurists have been powerless to circumscribe the accommodations 
of statesmen. While the jurist, obsessed with time-honoured 
theories of sovereignty and prerogative, has seen change in every 
adjustment, the statesman, concerned only with the practice of 
responsible government, has seen no change except in the scope 
of its application; and the same process which seems unnatural and 
irregular to the one has all the inevitableness and infinite adapt- 
ability of nature itself to the other. The ministers of the Crown in 
the Dominions have been held responsible wherever the vital 
interests of the Dominions have been involved : responsible too for 
safeguarding those novel interests that are sure to arise with the 
growth of sentient nationhood. To expect a people trained to these 
'forms of stringent responsibility' to relax them precisely where 
their dearest interests may come to be involved would be to expect 
to 'see the streams turn back upon their fountains'. 1 It is reason- 
able to suppose that similar 'conventions' will continue to accom- 
modate the vital forces of the British Commonwealth to each 
other, and that the statesman rather than the jurist will continue 
to have the casting vote. 

The Proceedings of the Imperial Conference of 1926 a gather- 
ing of statesmen with no fewer than seven sources of responsibility 
bear witness to this dominating influence in the sections relating 
to the Position of Governors-General, 3 to the Operation of 

1 Howe to Lord John Russell, Egerton and Grant, p. 248. 

a 'In our opinion it is* an essential consequence of the equality of status 
existing among the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations that the 
Governor-General of a Dominion is the representative of the Crown, holding in 
all essential respects the same position in relation to the administration of public 
affairs in the Dominion as is held by His Majesty the King in Great Britain, and 
that he is not the representative or agent of His Majesty's Government in Great 
Britain or of any Department of that Government.' Summary of Proceedings, 
Ottawa, 1926, p. 14. 


Dminion Legislation 1 and to Relations with Foreign Countries. 2 
le adjustment of many such anomalies has been simplified by 
e fact that these have been governed by the 'unwritten' conven- 
es of the constitution, and nothing more spectacular has been 
quired in each instance than a single concerted action discerningly 
vised to form a precedent for the future. Constitutional prob- 
ns of this nature can thus be solved one at a time, each upon its 
m merits, each in the order of its importance or practical 

And not only are specific adjustments more easily made by this 
storic method but they are more effectively consolidated and 
nserved. It is true that usage and custom require time to settle 
wn into recognized convention or precedent ; and perhaps that 
why this method has seldom appealed in times of revolution to 
adlong and inveterate reformers in a hurry. There is a cumula- 
p e conservatism in the end, however, which can be very nearly 
evocable. Lord Byng commanded Canadian troops at Vimy 
dge, but he never commanded Canadian military forces as 
3 vernor- General of Canada as did Murray and Dorchester, 
ock and Colborne. No Colonial Secretary will ever again deter- 
ne how a Canadian Minister of Finance is to balance his budget, 
lere is something altogether more permanent about these con- 
ntions of the constitution than there would be about the repeal 
a certain section in a written statute and the enactment of an- 
icr. It is easier to plant an oak tree than to build a cottage, yet 
the fullness of time it will be easier to pull down the cottage than 
tear up the oak tree by the roots. The growth of such a political 
*anism may not be very rapid or spectacular but it is apt to be 
narkably steady. 

The project of the Imperial Conference for a 'Committee with 
ms of reference' to deal with more difficult anomalies may be 
pected to move steadily forward in the same direction, though 
my of these problems, without a doubt, will tax alike the temper 
the jurist and the resources of the statesman. To those mean- 
lile who see in this 'constructive ingenuity* of statesmanship 

'We propose that it should be placed on record, that apart from provisions 
bodied in constitutions or in specific statutes expressly providing for reserva- 
i, it is recognized that it is the right of the Government of each Dominion to 
dse the Crown in all matters relating to its own affairs.' Id. y p. 15. 

Cf. the report with regard to Procedure in Relation to Treaties, id., 17 ff. : 
ic plenipotentiaries for the various British units should have full powers 
led in each case by the King on the advice of the Government concerned.* 
i P- '9- 

some latent principle of mischief unless 'all the preliminary details 
... all the technical difficulties which have their origin in the 
long history of our Oversea Dominions' can be classified and 
settled beforehand, Lord Balfour has replied with scathing em- 
phasis : 

'Can anything be more legal and less statesmanlike? I cannot even 
put myself in the frame of mind of the noble Lord on the subject. . . . 
You might as well consider all the causes of divorce before you decide 
upon the problems of matrimony. . . . My view most strongly is that 
the British Empire is now a more united organism than it ever has 
been before. . . . Nothing, as I believe, can increase the feeling of 
solidarity more than the sense that that solidarity depends on the 
complete sense of free equality. ... If International Law has not the 
sense to get over (these difficulties) we must manage as best we can/ 1 


The unstinted recognition of Dominion nationhood by British 
statesmen has been termed the most signal act of self-abnegation in 
modern history. Were its purpose purely negative much might be 
said for this conclusion. But this is only half, or less than half, of 
the meaning of responsible government. To the jurist or the 
centralizing imperialist self-government has ever been a process of 
disintegration. The concurrent process of integration through 
what Burke called the communion of the spirit 'wild and chimeri- 
cal' as that seemed in 1775 to 'mechanical politicians . . . who 
think that nothing exists but what is gross and material* is a 
subtler and in the last analysis a much profounder conception. The 
pearl of great price here is mutual confidence, and it is not to be 
created by the mechanics of government. 'The very idea of sub- 
ordination of parts', exclaimed Burke, 'excludes this notion of 
simple and undivided unity.' In the ceaseless friction generated 
by subordination during the second Empire, the harmony of what 
Burke called 'the spirit of the constitution' was seldom audible ; 
'but to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and 
master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have 
mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth everything, 
and all in all.' Lacking at once the narrower intensiveness of sheer 
separatism and the ardour of imperialism, this conception of the 
Commonwealth may be based upon nothing more spectacular than 
a sense of common weal. Fitted by its very catholicity for the 

1 Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire, January, 1927, pp. 15 f. 


environment in which a League of Nations is seeking (in the words 
of the Covenant) to 'promote international co-operation and to 
achieve international peace and security ... by the prescription of 
open, just and honorable relations between nations', the Common- 
wealth is in itself a microcosm of international statesmanship, and 
its most exemplary virtues are those which are capable of being 
projected into international relations. In phrases now historic, the 
Report of the Inter-Imperial Relations Committee of the Imperial 
Conference of 1926 outlines the scope of these creative forces: 

'No account, however accurate, of the negative relations in which 
Great Britain and the Dominions stand to each other can do more 
than express a portion of the truth. The British Empire is not 
founded upon negations. It depends essentially, if not formally, on 
positive ideals. Free institutions are its life-blood. Free co-operation 
is its instrument. Peace, security, and progress are among its objects. 
. . . And though every Dominion is now, and must always remain, the 
sole judge of the nature and extent of its co-operation, no common 
cause will, in our opinion, be thereby imperilled/ 

It would be idle to assume that this vision of constructive states- 
manship has guided the development from governance to self- 
government in the British Dominions. To many at one time or 
another, perhaps to all who wrought materially in that cause, the 
dust and heat of the local struggle beclouded the larger vision. The 
Adamses and the Papineaus were from the outset intransigent. A 
fierce love of liberty as they understood it drove the Gourlays and 
the William Lyon Mackenzies into sheer despair and defiance. For 
the Girouards and the La Fontaines the waters of Marah never lost 
their immemorial bitterness. In 1838, Baldwin, contemplating a 
province to be held 'by troops alone', almost despaired of his 'great 
principle'. Howe, in the flight of his mind the loftiest and most 
adventurous of the Reformers, was at times 'tired and Savage' with 
the prospect. Reflecting upon the policy that 'drove the old 
Colonies to separation', he once foresaw even in Nova Scotia the 
rise of 'a different spirit' dominated 'by the Enemies of England, 
not by her friends'; and he could never speak of the 'dark days' 
without a tremor. For many who inherited a happier outlook the 
integration of spirit which has accompanied the disintegration of 
government has been not only a by-product or an afterthought but 
a mystery. 

Projects of a centralized or materialistic Empire, on the other 
hand, have taken forms without number ; and the defects of vision, 

3412 Y J 

of temper, and of motive, long survived to discredit more magnani- 
mous projects of the Commonwealth. For William Knox at the 
beginning of the second Empire, the leading principles of colonial 
policy were to be 'the permanency of their connection with this 
country' and 'the advantage to be derived from them'. Their 
prosperity was to be 'encouraged only as far as it may consist with 
these two; for it would be much better (he added) to have no 
Colonies at all, than not to have them permanently connected with 
this country, and subservient to the increase of its maritime 
strength and commercial prosperity'. 1 

The shifting devices of colonial policy for a colonial aristo- 
cracy, for vested interests in the councils, for an endowed church, 
for casual and territorial revenues ample enough to wrest the 
power of the purse from the Assembly, for subtler methods of 
disarming opposition by official favour were commonplaces of 
the second Empire. So also were the benevolent intentions of the 
younger Pitt, of Dalhousie, of Gosford, and of Lord John Russell. 
As mercantilism gave way before Huskisson's great reforms, and 
the traditional 'bonds of Empire' were finally loosed in the repeal 
of the corn laws and in free trade, self-interest and faith in the 
Empire alike decayed. Huskisson was content to regard the colonies 
as 'free nations, the communicators of freedom to other nations'. 
How far the official acquiescence of Great Britain in responsible 
government was simplified bythe commercial doctrines of laissez- 
faire can only be conjectured. Had the older creeds prevailed, the 
rise of well-nigh irresistible political parties in Nova Scotia and in 
Canada might have resulted, not in less conclusive demonstrations 
of responsible government but in more resolute obstruction from 
Great Britain ; and this in turn might have embittered the whole 
subsequent history of the British provinces. On the other hand it 
is well to remember that the repeal of the corn laws meant 'the 
triumph of free trade and not of freedom'. Grey's zeal for free 
trade was scarcely less pontifical in its outlook and its temper than 
Knox's for the mercantile subserviency of the second Empire. 
With the trend towards protection in the colonies, commercial 
subordination was still the order of the day. 2 

By the middle of the nineteenth century, however, the worst 

1 Extra Official State Papers, vol. ii, Appendix xiv, p. 48. 

* Cf. Grey's strictures in the Grey-Elgin Correspondence against 'that silliest 
of all silly policies, the meeting of commercial restrictions by counter restric- 
tions'. See also his policy on the New Brunswick bounties in Grey-Elgin Corre- 
spondence, Oct. 25, 1850. 


devices of the old order had passed away. Elgin renounced 
scathingly, as we have seen, the discredited projects of 'a Colonial 
Empire for the purpose of exercising dominion or dispensing 
patronage', or as a 'hot-bed for forcing commerce and manufac- 
tures'. The connexion was to be safeguarded 'neither by the 
golden links of protection nor by the meshes of old-fashioned 
colonial office jobbing and chicane'. The net result of these shallow 
expedients from beginning to end was unfortunate. The positive 
results were negligible. The indirect results were positively dan- 
gerous, and other traditional 'bonds of Empire' that were less 
objectionable shared the same fate. In almost every instance the 
procedure has been the same. Friction rather than cohesion re- 
sulted from many of these 'bonds', until they threatened to destroy 
more than they safeguarded. When they reached the point of 
jeopardizing the 'unsuspecting confidence', which Burke re- 
garded as 'in truth everything and all in all', they were cast aside 
by common consent, and normal relations were again resumed. 
None could now be found to advocate the reinstatement of the 
Governor-General to the presidency of the Canadian cabinet, of 
the Colonial Office to the control of fiscal legislation in Canada, of 
the instructions formerly issued for the reservation of Canadian 
Bills, or of the British War Office to the control of the Canadian 
militia. When viewed in retrospect it is hard to discover virtue in 
these 'vestigial anomalies', and it is a truism of Canadian politics 
that whatever the traditional views of political parties, the policy 
of Dominion ministers in practice has had the Appearance of un- 
broken continuity. Of the seven or eight successive party admini- 
strations since Confederation, not one has failed to enlarge the 
bounds of Dominion autonomy. Macdonald and Tupper, Blake, 
and Laurier, Sir Robert Borden, the Hon. Arthur Meighen, and 
the Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King have all responded instinctively, 
in practice, to the same national impulses. The coming of age of 
the 'great lubberly boy' of 1850, as Elgin humorously described 
the Canada of that day, has had all the steady growth and adapt- 
ability of the slow processes of nature. 

But while the integration of spirit which underlies the moral 
unity of the Commonwealth has been largely a by-product or an 
aftermath of self-government, its growth has been no less spon- 
taneous and natural than the more elemental forces of the second 
Empire. With a rooted distrust of the mechanics of government, 
the most discerning prophets of the Commonwealth have relied 

consistently upon a single constructive principle which is cohesive 
not by virtue of * exquisite policy' but in the very nature of things. 
'Like breeds like 5 ; and there are likenesses that are no less funda- 
mental than race or language. 'The free Greeks', exclaimed Ad- 
derley, 'bred only free colonies, which "homed off" from them as 
New England did from us. ... Unnatural treatment may alienate 
them tamen usque recurret natural 1 Lord Morley's formula is to 
be found in the words of Matthew Arnold : 'What attaches people 
to us is the spirit we are of, not the machinery we employ.' 2 Lord 
Balfour's historic dictum is still more broadly catholic in its scope : 
'The British Empire ... is held together far more effectually by the 
broad loyalties, by the common feelings and ^interests in many cases, 
of history and by devotion to great world ideals of peace and 

'A common interest in loyalty, in freedom, in ideals that is the 
bond of Empire. If that is not enough, nothing else is enough.' 3 
Separated from this in time by the whole range of two Empires 
is the incomparable insight of Burke. Too often perhaps have the 
Speeches on America been quoted for their rhetoric rather than 
for their wisdom. 'They compose', Morley once exclaimed, 'the 
most perfect manual in our literature, or in any literature, for one 
who approaches the study of public affairs, whether for knowledge 
or for practice': 4 

'My hold of the colonies (said Burke) is in the close affection which 
grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar 
privileges, and equal protection. These are ties, which, though light 
as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the 
idea of their civil rights associated with your government. . . . Deny 
them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond, 
which originally made, and must still preserve the unity of the em- 
pire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers 
and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and 
your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. 
Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and 
your suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great 
contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your 
government. Dead -instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the 
spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy 
to them. . . . 

1 Review of " The Colonial Policy of Lord J. Russell's Administration", p. n. 
* Recollections t p. 129. 

3 Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire, Jan., 1927, p. 16. 

4 Burke, London, 1888, p. 116. 


All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to ... 
those vulgar and mechanical politicians . . . who think that nothing 
exists but what is gross and material. . . . But to men truly initiated 
and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which, in the 
opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial exis- 
tence, are in truth everything, and all in all.' 

This doctrine, assuredly, is not to be traced in apostolic succession 
from Burke to Balfour, but it recurs repeatedly from every round 
of practice. It is to be found in the pages of Howe even during the 
'dark days'. Baldwin and La Fontaine acted upon it less instinc- 
tively, but with conviction born of bitter experience. In Gibbon 
Wakefield it may not have been altogether without guile ; but in the 
gracious spirit of Charles Buller the Ariel, surely, of that political 
tempest it was to be found in its sprightliest and kindliest form. 
Lord Durham with his robust opportunism and his 'abundance of 
political courage, sometimes, perhaps, a little approaching to rash- 
ness', 1 had a more pragmatic outlook upon the Empire. The third 
Earl Grey in some respects a baffling figure, passing into per- 
manent eclipse after six eventful years of incandescence at the 
Colonial Office accepted a less arduous philosophy for the British 
provinces : 'the establishment of the relation between them and the 
mother-country on the basis of mutual affection/ 'The main 
object of our policy', he wrote to Elgin, 'ought to be to support the 
hopes and courage of the Canadians until their natural advantages 
begin to tell.' To Lt.-Gov. Campbell of Prince Edward Island, 
Grey had already outlined a deeper conviction: 'In the present 
state of political Society, and with the free Institutions which now 
prevail in the Mother Country and Colony alike, mutual goodwill 
can constitute the only real tie between them.' 2 

In the pages of the Grey-Elgin Correspondence this spirit of the 
Commonwealth is to be found not only in the making but almost 
in its final form. The death of Buller in 1848 left Elgin and Grey 
one on either side of the Atlantic almost alone among the British 
statesmen of that day in the belief that a new and constructive 
principle would arise from the concession of responsible govern- 
ment. Surrounded on all sides by men of little faith, they kept 
their own, at times, only with a conscious effort. None, then 
or since, ever jettisoned with less compunction the 'vestigial 
anomalies' of dependence or subordination from the old Empire. 

1 Broughton, Recollections of a Long Life, v. 291. 

2 Dec. 27, 1849, G. Series (P.E.I.), 284. 281, Pub. Arch. Can. 

Durham's reservations, as we have seen, were the first to go. There 
could be no 'line of demarcation 7 between imperial and provincial 
interests: 'I see nothing for it but that the Governors should be 
responsible for the share which the Imperial Government may 
have .... with the liability to be recalled and disavowed.' The 
time might come 'when it may be expedient to allow the Colonists 
to elect their Governors', leaving the British Government to be 
'represented in the Colony by an Agent. ... If your Agent was 
well chosen and had a good status I am not sure but that the con- 
nexion might be kept up under such an arrangement quite as well 
and as profitably for England as under the present.' 1 

At the same time none saw more clearly the vital functions of the 
Crown in those invaluable 'conventions' which make up the prac- 
tice of responsible government. The vital problem too of integra- 
tion the communion of the spirit was dealt with upon an 
analogy which must have appeared, like Burke 's, somewhat 'wild 
and chimerical' to 'mechanical politicians', but which has proved 
so apt and discerning in practice that it may still bear the scrutiny 
of cold and deliberate calculation. With kindly feeling and good- 
humour Elgin wrote that the 'great lubberly boy' was coming of 
age. Never was he likely to feel more sensitively the surviving 
restraints of his minority. Never, it is true also, were blunders of 
tact and judgement likely to prove more costly ; for though the 
exercise of parental authority had often been arbitrary and short- 
sighted, there had always been the saving prospect hitherto of re- 
establishing confidence and goodwill before the bonds of authority 
should be finally abrogated. With goodwill and a sense of humour, 
however, permanent estrangement ought to be the last normal 
eventuality of a well-ordered family, unless domestic relations were 
egregiously mismanaged. Even these might yield to concord if 
sought, after Burke's formula, not in the 'juridical determination 
of perplexing questions; or the precise marking the shadowy 
boundaries of a complex government', but in its 'natural course, 
and in its ordinary haunts .... peace sought in the spirit of peace ; 
and laid in principles purely pacific'. Separated economically by 
the widest diversities of interest and sometimes of practice, there 
would still remain to these adolescent nations a gentler therapy in 
the form of common institutions, of many common traditions, of 
much common history, of a common way of looking at things, of 

1 Walrond, Letters and Journals of Lord Elgin, p. 114; Grey-Elgin Correspon- 
dence, Mar. 23, 1850. 


common ideals of world peace and freedom. Elgin was a man of 
faith ; but his historic analogy was based upon worldly wisdom and 
hard facts, and it may not unfairly be amplified and projected thus 
into the happier environment of our own day. 


In many respects Elgin's prophecy has required no less time than 
this for its fulfilment. The nation which he foresaw in 1850 has 
matured slowly. There were materials in Canada, as he wrote, 'for 
the future of Nations' ; and Grey added that in the scale of intelli- 
gence the province already stood Very high among the nations of 
the world'. Elgin's successor, Sir Edmund Head, in the secret 
Memorandum which had been drawn up for Earl Grey in 1854, 
projected a federation of the British provinces with 'a national 
destiny', a uniform currency, a mint, and a flag of their own, and 
with 'the forms and the substance of our constitution come to 
maturity in this part of America'. Many seers of Confederation 
also during the next decade had the same vision. Thomas D'Arcy 
McGee spoke of 'one great nationality bound, like the shield of 
Achilles by the blue rim of the ocean' ; Alexander Tilloch Gait 
wrote and spoke in terms of 'national prestige', of 'national power 
and consideration', of building up 'a nation worthy of England 
from her North American possessions' ; Alexander Morris wrote 
of 'a new nation .... with the telegraph and the iron-road con- 
necting the two oceans'. Macdonald, too, at last, was numbered 
among the prophets: 'We are standing on the very threshold of 
nations and when admitted we shall occupy no unimportant posi- 
tion among the nations of the world.' 

But Confederation was not the idealistic movement it is apt to 
appear in years of jubilee. Its mainspring in practice was the 
desperate plight of the old province of Canada, and it was 'ex- 
torted', as John Adams said of the Constitution of the United 
States, 'from the grinding necessities of a reluctant people'. Fifty 
years were to pass before Macdonald 's prophecy could come true. 
Five great areas, four of them in almost complete isolation, had 
first to be united into a transcontinental Dominion before the vital 
forces of nationhood could begin to function. The eastern pro- 
vinces, with interests almost altogether maritime, looked to the 
south and across the Atlantic for their commercial future. Cut off 
from these by an impenetrable wilderness and by all the barriers of 
race and language was the French population of Canada East. 

Beyond, upon the Great Lakes, lay a third vast area already upon 
an 'inclined plane', as many thought, towards the United States. 
Separated from Canada West by another impenetrable wilderness 
was the vast area of Rupert's Land, accessible at that time only by 
way of Hudson Bay or the United States, and standing, it seemed, 
directly in the path of American expansion westward and north- 
ward, the most rapid and headlong migration of peoples in the 
range of modern history. Beyond the Rockies lay a fifth area, on 
the Pacific, to be reached by half-circumnavigating the globe. 
Nowhere perhaps among modern nations has there been such a 
contest as this against the barriers of physical geography. In the 
growth of a national spirit, these magnificent distances were liabili- 
ties rather than assets. After the framework of the B.N.A. Act of 
1867 and the building of transcontinental railways, came the real 
challenge of nationhood. What if the removal of these physical 
disabilities were to reveal not mutual sympathies but mutual anti- 
pathies ? What if varied economic interests, instead of unifying the 
country, as many of the advocates of Confederation so lightly 
promised in 1864, were found upon closer analysis to invite con- 
flict and disintegration ? The answer to these problems was to be 
found only in building up, largely in the realm of political tradi- 
tions and institutions, a consciousness of vital and fundamental 
interests in common. The Canadian Confederation thus made 
possible in the end a larger nation, but it postponed for many years 
the achievement of sentient nationhood as Elgin had conceived it 
it 1850, and it has resulted in a Dominion which is desperately 
hard to develop, hard to populate, hard to traverse, hard to 
govern. For half a century the best energies of Canadian statesmen 
have gone to the building of giants' causeways across the continent. 
Only in recent years have the Canadian people recaptured some- 
thing of the vision which the most discerning of their public men 
had known long since and lost awhile. 

Changes too in international relations have profoundly modified, 
for the better, some of the conditions under which the 'nation', 
foreseen by Elgin and Head, now at last begins to function. In 
the Covenant of the League Canada entered the comity of nations 
in the spirit of international goodwill. Dedicated to peace and 
peopled predominantly by two races speaking the two official 
languages of the League, no country could be more happily 
situated to avoid those deadlier fumes of nationality which have 
been seething for a century from the crucible of nineteenth-century 


Europe. Even the nations of the old world can claim no longer the 
unfettered sovereignty of 1914. While the League is not a super- 
state its members are living in association, and their freedom is no 
longer the absolute freedom of sovereignty but the contingent 
freedom of association and law. The rule of law among nations 
'the international mind* now abroad in the world is far from 
being the force it has been long since within the national state, 
but every stage in its growth may be relied upon to integrate 
nations into closer solidarity. 

In that sense the British Commonwealth which is so amorphous 
that observers, unfamiliar with the play of British usage and ' con- 
vention', are baffled by its apparent mechanical incoherence, has 
now for the first time, perhaps, an environment favourable to its 
own peculiar aptitudes. Even less than the League is the Common- 
wealth subject to the written bond. The Rt. Hon. Mr. Amery 
recently remarked that Great Britain and the other nations of the 
Commonwealth were all Dominions now. It would be equally 
true perhaps to say that all the Dominions (except the Irish Free 
State) are now Empires, in control of subordinate territories or 
mandates which have no immediate contacts whatever with each 
other. A Canadian ' territory ' has no organic contact with an 
Australian * territory' or with the British Gold Coast or with 
Kenya. Thus the British Empire which still exists as an agglo- 
meration of Empires, now associates only as a Commonwealth. In 
form it is a heptarchy again. Its moral unity, however, belongs to 
another order. The old ideal of 'romantic loyalty' Elgin found to 
be passing away seventy-five years ago. In its place it was neces- 
sary to prepare the way for a broader conception a reciprocal 
loyalty to the political ideals which they hold in common. To give 
free play to these imponderables 'broad loyalties .... common 
feelings and interests .... world ideals of peace and freedom' 
is now the genius of the Commonwealth, and it can scarcely fail to 
respond to the conditions under which it lives. In that sense the 
growth of self-conscious nationhood in the Dominions, their as- 
sociation as a Commonwealth, and their broader association with 
each other and with other nations in the League of Nations, are 
cumulative rather than competitive processes. The three reinforce 
rather than neutralize each other. For all three, similar motives 
and aptitudes are brought into play. While this is less obvious in 
Great Britain where the recent developments in the Common- 
wealth and in the League may represent a considerable readjust- 

ment, it is a very natural tendency in the Dominions where the 
sense of nationality has burst into activity in all three channels at 
once. For Canada at least the three are so closely interlocked in 
origin and method and temper that there would seem to be no 
valid reason for trying to disentangle the motives which they have 
in common. 

A special interest, however, attaches to the more instinctive as- 
sociations of the Commonwealth. Their flexibility is such that 
they may be expected to respond almost automatically to that 'day- 
to-day opportunism' which Sir Charles Lucas has called the highest 
genius of the race. Much therefore is likely to be determined by 
forces that are 'stronger than advocacy'. Hpw far are these likely 
to carry the * British Commonwealth of Nations' towards closer 
integration ? 

Certain tendencies have been discernible at times in Canada 
towards separatism and complete independence not in the literal 
sense of in~dependence, the termination of dependency, but in the 
narrower sense of formal and complete dissociation from the 
Commonwealth and from world politics. To many exponents of 
this view the League of Nations is little more than a myth. The 
share of Canada in the activities of Assembly, International Labour 
Organization, and Council, has been but a gesture. The Common- 
wealth is a verbal abstraction. For a section of Canadian opinion, 
too, this policy has taken the form not only of isolation but of 
insulation against all external contacts a task simplified in many 
respects by traditions of race, language, and religion. 

On the other hand, tendencies, now deep and strong, towards 
a broader national destiny than this are already gathering momen- 
tum, though these are less deliberate in their action, and less de- 
pendent therefore upon sheer advocacy. Common to both sets of 
tendencies perhaps has been the sturdy growth of an indigenous 
national spirit which is worthy of a tribute wherever it is to be 
found . Divergencies , however, are beginning to appear with regard 
both to the past and to the future. A deliberate policy of dissocia- 
tion or isolation would be a departure from historic traditions at 
all three of the most Critical stages of Canadian national develop- 
ment. Responsible government was the work not of Papineau's 
Ishmaelitish separatism but of the reasoned goodwill of Howe, 
Baldwin, and La Fontaine. * Standing on the very threshold of 
nations' at Confederation, Macdonald, too, contemplated a broader 
'confederacy of free men', destined to 'remain united with the 


mother country*, though 'fast ceasing to be a dependency, and 
assuming the position of an ally of Great Britain'. Similar in 
temper were the associations which attended the Dominions into 
the World War and the League of Nations, and finally launched 
them upon the high seas of world politics. If there are dangers to 
be found there for the internal peace of Canada, there are graver 
dangers to be found in turning back. The hero in Ossian put to 
sea to ride out the storm. For better or for worse the Dominion is 
already upon the high seas, and it would seem to be the part of 
wisdom to make there the best friends it is possible to find. It 
would be indeed strange, with so many of 'the imponderables' in 
common, if these were not found to be the nations of the British 

In truth a choice between isolation or insulation on the one hand 
and more intimate external associations on the other, is perhaps no 
longer feasible for this country. The cross-roads have long since 
been passed, and economic as well as political tendencies would 
seem to confirm the accomplished fact. The export trade of 
Canada now fifth in world value with nine and a half millions 
of population has reached the figure the United States had with 
seventy. Canadian wheat is sold and must always be sold in world 
markets. Economic self-sufficiency, like moral or political self- 
sufficiency, is a counsel of perfection. Few nations, moreover, 
have a deeper stake in world peace than Canada, in the interests of 
peace within her own borders. That this could be safeguarded by 
withdrawing from all external associations and' ignoring the issues 
of international peace that are now abroad in the world would 
seem to be the vainest of delusions. Little-Canadianism, as the 
world is now constituted, would only subserve the dangers which 
it would be powerless in any case to escape. If world peace, on the 
other hand, is largely contingent upon the relations between Great 
Britain, France, and the United States, few nations of the world 
are more happily associated than Canada with all three ; and here 
again, in the interests of domestic peace if nothing else, it would 
seem to be the part of wisdom not to blink realities but to throw 
the modest weight of the Dominion for whatever it may be worth 
into the scales where alone world peace is to be secured. 

Moral integration may be expected to grow out of that kind of 
experience and association. It is not necessary to emphasize the 
mechanical integration which has already taken place within the 
Commonwealth the 'conventions' of the Imperial Conference of 

1926 with regard to consultation before all treaties, to official 
intercourse through ministers of a common Crown, and to the 
unanimous reservation of Commonwealth relations from the pur- 
view of the League of Nations. These after all are but 'dead 
instruments', with no more virtue than the old mechanics of 
governmental subordination without the vitalizing 'spirit of the 
communion'. In the spontaneous associations of the Common- 
wealth, however, may be found the widest field for usefulness in 
world politics, and for a modest measure of world influence, it may 
be, where Dominion interests are involved. Archimedes in demon- 
strating the power of the lever asked but a place to stand. Within 
the circle of the Commonwealth, in the lar,ger associations of the 
League, the Dominions have a privileged stance which might give 
to these young nations an influence out of all proportion to their 
wealth and population. 


A. Series, N. S., i n. i, 8 n. 4, &c., et 
passim in Chapter II. 

Abercromby, James, 22, 24, 29. 

Acadian Recorder, 155 f., 202. 

Acadians, see French Acadians. 

Adams, John, 12 & n. 2. 

Adderley, Sir C. B., his Review, 153 
n. i, &c. ; on Sydenham's policy, 
254; on nature of colonies, 348. 

Address, of N. S. Assembly, 1775, 
82 ff. ; of thanks for Legge's recall, 
86; of Continental Congress to the 
People of Great Britain, 135 f. ; to 
the Inhabitants of Quebec, i35f.; 
of British merchants to Carleton, 
146; of N. S. for freedom of trade, 
160; to the Crown, by N. S. Assem- 
bly, 170; for Campbell's recall, 
igoff.; to Sydenham from people 
of Halifax, 197 ; amendment to, Jan. 
24, 1847, introducing responsible 
government, 235; to the Reformers 
of Frontenac, see Hincks ; to Met- 
calfe on the 'crisis', 297 & n. 2; for 
amnesty, 300; Baldwin's, of 'loyalty 
and attachment', 313; on Rebellio?i 
Losses Bill, 315. 

Albion of N. Y., 216. 

Allan, John, committed to Revolu- 
tion, 85. 

Allan, Ethan, 88 ; at Ticonderoga, 137. 

Almon, Mather, 178, 211, 231. 

Alvord, C. W., on policy of 1763, 96; 
The Mississippi Valley, 96 n. 2. 

America and West Indies, correspon- 
dence, 59 n. i, et passim in Chap- 
ter II. 

American Colonial Government, see 

American Department, Dartmouth 
succeeds Ilillsborough in (1772), 
76 ; see Dartmouth, Knox, and Hills- 
borough; concord with N. S. 85; 
abolished in 1782, 91 n. 3. 

American Revolution, xiii, xv f. ; 
Franklin's forecast of issues in, 41 ; 
Shirley on 'Independency', 45 ; first 
issue of 'independence' in, 45; 
Knox on, 46 f . & n. i ; Washing- 
ton on, in 1774, 47 ; Burke on, 47 f., 
52 f., 54, &c.; in U.S.A., G. B., 
and Canada, 48; 'inevitableness' of, 
50 ff. ; Egerton on, 53; and 'mutual 
confidence', 54 f.; Legge on, 76 f., 
79 ff.; New Englanders in N. S. 
and, 80 ff.; Addresses of N. S. 
Assembly on, 82 ff. ; Francklin on 
N. S. and, 82; * Cumberland rising' 

for, 85 f.; decisive factors in N. S. 
during, 87 ff. ; results of, upon N. S., 
89 ff . ; and reversal of British policy 
in Quebec, 100; Quebec Act and, 
109- 47 , passim ; Knox and Meredith 
on, 109 f.; Carleton on, in ff., 131 
n. 2, 11%-tf, passim; Board of Trade 
and, 122, 143-7 ; North and Maseres 
on, 129 f. ; background of Quebec 
Act in, 130; Barre on, 131 f.; Chat- 
ham on, i33f. ; the Quebec Act in 
early stages of, 1 34 ff . ; Hamilton 
on Quebec Act and, 135; Dickin- 
son on Carleton's policy in, 137; 
Quebec and ,138 -43 , passim ; Bishop 
Briand and clergy on, 138; sei- 
gneurs and, 1 38 ft., 147; Reed on 
Quebec Act in, 136 f. ; Hey and 
Carleton on French Canadians and, 
139 ff.; Dartmouth, North, and 
Pownall on Quebec and, 141; 
Franco- Spanish- American alliance 
in, 143; leaves 'American question' 
unsolved, 148; Howe on, 226. 

American Revolution, see Egerton. 

Amery, Rt. Hon. L. S., 353. 

Amnesty, sought by Bagot, 275, 288; 
Metcalfe on, 288 f. 

Anglican, see Church of England. 

Annapolis, 57, 60, 66, 81. 

Annexation movement to U. S. A., 
316; basis of, 318 ff.; Elgin's policy 
on, 3iof. ; manifesto of 1849 for, 
319; effect of responsible govern- 
ment upon, 320; reciprocity the 
antidote for, 320 & n. 5, 321 : Elgin's 
'pole star of ... policy' on, 321. 

Arbuthnot, Lieut.-Gov. of N. S., 85 f. 

Archibald, S. W. G., Speaker of N. S. 
Assembly, 158, 163, 203 ; on 'brandy 
dispute', 158 f., 162 f.; Att'y-Gen., 
I 59> !^3 ; in Howe's libel case, 168; 
Master of the Rolls, 205. 

Aristocracy, Knox on, 29 f.; Pitt's 
scheme for hereditary, in Canada, 
148; Carleton on, 148; Fox on 
titles for, in Canada, 148 & n. i. 

Armstrong, Major, 57, 60; his pro- 
posals for an Assembly, s8, 63. 

Arnold, Benedict, 85, 88', 138. 

'Aroostook War', 178 f., 227. 

Arthur, Sir George, on Durham's Re- 
port, 240. 

Assembly, of N. S., unique, xvii; nor- 
mal growth of, xviii ; projected for 
Quebec, xviii; functions of, see Co- 
lonial government; necessary in 
British colony, i; statutory in U. 



and L. Canada, 24; in N. S., see 
The First Assembly, 67-76; neces- 
sary by governor's commission, 
68; urged by Ch. J. Belcher, 67 f.; 
by Halifax merchants, 69; anony- 
mously, 69; by grand juries, 70; by 
council, 70; opposed by Lawrence 
and Monckton, 69 f.; enjoined by 
Murray and Lloyd, 68; directed by 
Board of Trade, 68 ff. ; convened, 
1758, 71; temper and conduct of, 

72 ff. ; contest with John Collier, 72 ; 
with Hinchelwood, 73; dissolved in 
i?59> 73? 'quorum controversy', 

73 f.; in 1770, 74-5; 'the Mavrger 
influence* in, 77 f. ; 'Levelling 
Spirit' in, 77; vindicates Binney, 
79; Secret Addresses of, 1775, xvii, 
82 ff. ; majority of, 'born in New 
England', 83 ; reforms advocated by, 
84; Address of thanks for Legge's 
recall, 86; sits through Revolution, 
86 & n. 2; *and Cumberland rising, 
86 ; after Revolution, 87 ; importance 
of, for N. S., 89 ; loyalist criticism of, 
90; first in N. B., 90; denied to Cape 
Breton, 91 , 148 ; woes of Revolution 
attributed to, 91, 148; loyalists had 
'had enough' of, 92; prescribed for 
Quebec, 98 f. ; opposed by Murray, 
98 ; no attempt to call, 99 ; denied by 
Quebec Act, 99 ; 'Faith of the Crown 
. . . fully pledged' for, 99, 120; 'irre- 
vocably' granted to Grenada after 
1763, 100 f. ; sought by British mer- 
chants, with franchise for French 
Canadians, 102; Carleton's views 
on, 1 1 6 f . ; advocated for Quebec by 
Board of Trade in 1765, 119; in 
1769, i2off. ; rights for Roman 
Catholics in, 120 f.; effect of Quebec 
Act upon, 125, 129 & n. i, 130 f., 
133 f.; oldest in N. S. and first to 
win responsible government, 151 
'comparatively poor men' in N. S. 
156; Speaker's functions in N. S. 
158; and customs controversy, 159 
160 f. ; temper of, in N. S., 159 ff. 
and trade restrictions, 159 f. ; on 
brandy dispute, 159, 1614; moder- 
ation of, i6off. ; the Twelve Reso- 
lutions of, 169; Address to the 
Crown, 170 f.; of N. B., 171 ff.; in 
N. S., asks responsible'government, 
171 ; on civil list, 174; four of Exec. 
Council chosen from, 174; send 
Huntington and Young to England, 
176; of N.B., rejects responsible 
government 'at all times', 178; un- 
daunted in N. S. alone, 178; passes 
want of confidence, 188 f. ; Russell 
on vote of, 192; Sydenham on, 

194 ff.; Howe's concordat with Syd- 
enham on, 198; conciliated by 
'Doddean confession', 205; on 'the 
college question*, 207; holds power 
of the purse, 208 ; Falkland on party 
in, 213; see Party; to be thwarted 
only by statute, 213 ; passes censure 
upon Howe, 220; evolution of, 
225 f.; dissolution of, canvassed, 
229 f.; Johnston on, 231 ff.; elec- 
tions for, in N. S., 1847, 234; re- 
sponsible government inaugurated 
in N. S., 234 f.; Union carried in 
U. C., 250 f.; Sydenham on, in 
U. C., 250 & n. i, 253 f. ; jobbing in, 
U. C., 253; trained by Sydenham, 
262 ff . ; passes District Council Bill, 
262 ; Sydenham's majority precari- 
ous in, 262, 268; Bagot's problems 
with, 271 f. ; Peel on adverse, 272; 
Baldwin's control of, 273 ; Bagot's 
successful appeal to, 274; passes 
confidence in Bagot's 'Cabinet', 
274 f. ; sacrificed by Metcalfe crisis, 
292; and Metcalfe's new council, 
299; votes for general amnesty and 
French language, 300; elections for, 
in Canada, 1847, 309; want of con- 
fidence carried in, 309; 'most liberal 
. . . ever elected in Canada', 313; 
Papineau unsupported by, 313; and 
Rebellion Losses Bill, 315 f . ; con- 
ventions of, undefined, 328 f.; of 
P.E.I., on Civil List, 331; prevails 
over Russell and Stanley, 341 ; re- 
sponsible government won by dis- 
cipline of parties in, 341. 

Australia, xiv; amendments in, 334. 

Aylwin, Thomas C., Solic.-Gen., and 
Bagot, 280 & n. 2. 

Bagot, Sir Charles, Gov.-Gen. in 
Canada, 202; on Sydenham, 264, 
268, 272; see Bagot's 'Great Meas- 
ure', 264-80, passim ; his temper and 
character, 264 ff.; his diplomacy, 
265, 271 f., 274, 278; Ryerson on, 
265 ; his courage, 265, 274 ff., 
279 f. ; on Murdock, 267; on 
French Canadians, 267 f., 269; his 
alternatives, 269 ff.; on Ilincks, 
269; overtures to Cartwright and 
Sherwood, 269; Stanley's advice to, 
271; on the impending change, 27 1 f.; 
his policy canvassed by Stanley 
and Peel, 272 & n. 3; his dispatches 
to Stanley, 273 f. ; his 'Great Meas- 
ure', 273 ff. ; his appeal to the As- 
sembly, 274; on MacNab, 274 & n. 
2; his new 'Cabinet', 274 f.; on his 
'Great Measure', 275; solicits am- 
nesty for French, 275, 288 ; abuse of, 



by 'Compact party, 275 ; his inter- 
course with Stanley, 276, 279; and 
Canadian radicalism, 277; on party 
spirit and patronage, 277 ; and Brit- 
ish conservatism, 278; Canadian 
opinion of, 279; Hincks on, 279 f. ; 
appreciated 'only in Canada*, 279; 
his isolation and death, 279, 289; 
his faith, 279 f.; his final appeal, 
280 ; Murdock on, 280 n. 2 ; on Met- 
calfe, 281 ; Wakefield on, 282; Met- 
calfe on policy of, 287; his official 
tours, 289; doubts permanency of 
Ultra and French alliance, 306; in- 
sight of, 314; welcomes disintegra- 
tion of parties, 325; concedes exis- 
tence of responsible government, 
341 ; see Bagot Papers', other refer- 
ences, 209, 238, 255, 300. 

Bagot Papers, viii, 195, 203 n. i, 264- 
80, passim, &c. 

Baldwin, Robert, and La Fontaine, 
ix, 244 f., 256-61, passim, 273 f., 
277, 286, 290, 301, 309, &c.; 
memorandum of 1836 to Glenelg, 
and appeal to Durham, 150 & n. i ; 
reaches 'the great principles', 150 & 
n. i; and Hume, 172; punctilious- 
ness and inflexibility of, 223, 275 f. ; 
strategy of, on the Union, 244; his 
'want of political confidence* in 
Tory colleagues, 258 f. ; his uncom- 
promising conscience, 259; Hincks 
on incorruptible character of, 259 f . ; 
his policy and resignation, 1841, 
256 & n. 2, 260 f.; resolutions of 
Sept. 1841 , 261 ; dominant influence 
of, 273 ; moves want of confidence, 
273 f. ; enters 'Cabinet', 274; de- 
clares his 'great principle . . . 
solemnly recognized', 276; and 
patronage under Bagot, 277 ; Kaye's 
travesty on, 280 ; and Canadian poli- 
tics, 283 ; relations with Metcalfe, 
286, 290 f., 292; Metcalfe on, 293; 
with La Fontaine forms responsible 
government, 309; Elgin's reliance 
upon, 313; meets Papineau in cau- 
cus, 313 n. 3; carries Address of 
'loyalty and attachment*, 313; in- 
sight of, 314; worth 'three regi- 
ments', 317; on Russell's speech of 
1850, 317; and Elgin, 323; his 
resignation, 323 f. ; his party, 325; 
his conservatism, 325 ; see Baldwin 
Papers', other references to, xv, 202, 
221, 254, 265, 275 f., 292, 295 f., 
298, 34i 349, 354- 

Baldwin, Dr. W. W., 260, 298; first to 
reach 'the great principles', 150 & 
n. i ; on the 'ministerial crisis* of 
1841, 260. 

Baldwin Papers, viii, 245 n. i, and 
Chapter V, passim. 

Balfour, Lord, on the British Empire, 
xxi, 248, 344. 

Baptists of N. S., 206 f., 209, 211. 

Barre", Colonel, on the Quebec Act, 
128, 131, 132. 

Barrington, Lord, on the Quebec Act, 

Bedford, Duke of, 21 n. 2, 61. 

Beer, C. L., on mercantile system, 13 ; 
on 'proprietary* colonies, 17 n. 3; 
on Seven Years' War, 43 ; on British 
officers and colonial militia, 44 n. 2; 
on revolution, 50; see British Co- 
lonial Policy. 

Belcher, Chief Justice of N. 8., on the 
Acadians, 65; raises issue of As- 
sembly, 67 f . ; certifies memorial of 
grand jury, 70. 

Belcher, Gov. of Mass, and N. J., 27 
n. 3> 37. 45 n. 2, 59, 67. 

Bell, Hugh, member of first respon- 
sible government, 235 n. i. 

Berkeley, Sir William, of Virginia, 19, 
24 & n. i. 

Bernard, Governor, of New Jersey, 
18; Governor of Mass., 38, 49. 

Bernard, Thomas, on the Quebec Act, 
126; An Appeal to the Public, 109 f. 
& n. i, 124 n. i. 

Binney, Jonathan, and Assembly in 
N. S., 78; vendetta of Gov. Legge 
against, 78 f.; his trial, imprison- 
ment, and vindication, 78 f. 

Bladen, Martin, 6. 

Blake, Edward, Bourinot on, 232; on 
reciprocity and annexation, 321 ; 
vindicates cabinet responsibility, 
337; and Dominion autonomy, 347. 

Blanchard, Jotham, 164, 168, 201 ; the 
Colonial Patriot, 167. 

Board of Trade, policy and Report of 
1769, xiv, xvii; holds Assembly 
necessary, i ; recommends Coram's 
plan for N. S., 21, 59 f. ; ascendancy 
under Halifax, 25 ; and Albany Con- 
gress, 1754, 39; plan of, for colonial 
union in 1754, 41-2; on the gover- 
nor and annual grants, 45 ; report 
on civil government of N. S., 1727, 
58; promises Assembly for N. S., 
58; preference for 'royal* govern- 
ment, 60; policy for Quebec and 
N. S., 68, 99; prompt instructions 
for an Assembly, 68 fT.; supports 
Assembly of N. S. in 'quorum con- 
troversy', 73 f. ; deals with charges 
against Legge, 84 f . ; concord of, 
with N. S. Assembly, 85; abolished 
in 1782, 91 n. 3; on rights of 'New 
Subjects' in Quebec, 95; instruc- 


tions to, from Halifax, 1763, 96; 
Hillsborough President of, in 1763, 
96; drafts deliberate measures for 
Quebec, 96 & n. i, 98; projects 
settlement of Quebec, 96 f.; Report 
of 1765, 96, 119; Report of 1769, 
96, 120 ff. ; consistent policy of, 
from 1756 to 1769, 97; government 
of Quebec (1770) removed from, 
97 ; conflict with views of Carleton, 
114, I2off., &c.; policy of, for 
Quebec, 119-22, passim, 143 fT. ; the 
'most mature examination' by, 120; 
vindicates rights of French Cana- 
dians, 119, izof. ; on an Assembly 
for Quebec, 120 f.; on courts, &c., 
119 & n. 3, 121 & n. i ; no Act of 
Parliament required by, 121; urges 
immediate action, 122; Report of 
1769, sent secretly to Carleton, 122 ; 
supplanted by Hillsborough, Knox 
and 'State Polities', 122 f. & n. i ; 
correspondence no longer directed 
to, 123 n. i ; Report of 1769 ignored 
or perverted, 127 & n. 4; tolerance 
and magnanimity of, 145. 

Board of Trade, N . S . , correspondence, 
59 n. 2, et passim in Chapter II. 

Borden, Sir Robert, 'full powers' at 
Treaty of Versailles, 338; on the 
Dominions and the League of Na- 
tions, 338; see also 347. 

Boston, 57; 'antimonarchical traders' 
from, 58 ; 'intrigues of, 59 ; example 
to be made of, 76 ; evacuation of, 89 ; 
Committee of Correspondence, 137. 

Boston Port Act, 130, 134. 

Bourinot, on the Quebec Act, 107; 
see Builders of Nova Scotia-, on 
Huntington, 176; on Johnston, 232. 

'Brandy dispute', 1830, Archibald on, 
158 f. ; details of, 159, 161-4, 171. 

Briand, Bishop, Mandement of, in 
Quebec, 138. 

British Colonial Policy, 17 54-6 5, 5 n. i, 
7 n. i & 2, &c. 

British North America Act, of 1867, 
necessary after Union Act, xix; not 
the 'constitution of Canada', 327; 
and self-government, 328; carried 
'per saltum', 330; amendments to, 
33> 334 an d responsible govern- 
ment, 335 ff. ; external relations 
almost undefined in, 336; British 
legislative supremacy in, 339. 

British Parliamentary Papers, viii, 
150 n. i, &c. 

Broughton, John Cam Hobhouse, 
Lord, on Durham, 241 & n. 2; on 
Glenelg, 173 & n. i; on Buller, 
Hawes and Howick, 3030. 2; see 
Recollections of a Long Life. 

Bryce, Lord, 257, 327 f. 

Buchanan, Isaac, invites Howe to Mon- 
treal, 200 ; lost to Reform party, 291 . 

Builders of Nova Scotia, 232 n. 4, &c. 

Buller, Charles, on Durham's doc- 
trine, 150; on the N. S. mission 
to Durham, 178; Huntington and 
Young on, 179 f.; speech of, on Re- 
union Bill, 1 80 ; on parties in Canada, 
199; on the death of Durham and 
his ultimate triumph ,199; on Grey's 
'sound views of Colonial Policy', 
226, 303 ; correspondence with 
Howe, 226 n. 3 & 4, 228-39, passim', 
see under Howe; on 'Military states- 
men', 227 f. ; liaison officer between 
N. S. Reformers and Colonial Office, 
229 ff.<; opposes both coalition and 
dissolution, 229 f. : on responsible 
government, 230, 242, 302 ; obsessed 
by 'spoils system', 236; on Euro- 
pean turmoil and responsible gov- 
ernment in N. S., 237; on Howe's 
'wisdom & moderation', 237; on 
Howe's influence at the Colonial 
Office, 237; death of, 237 f., 349; 
Howe's tribute to, 238 f . ; on Syden- 
ham, Russell, and Durham, 242; 
on Metcalfe, 281 ; urged 'stipula- 
tions' for Metcalfe, 284; influence 
of, 349 ; see Responsible Government 
for Colonies', other references, ix, 38, 
181, 198, 219, 228, 233, 240, 259, 
308, 316, 328, 341. 

Burgoyne, General, 142, 143. 

Burke, Edmund, on party, v, 199, 324; 
on unity and subordination, xxi, 
344, 348 f. ; on American commerce, 
10, 12; Speech on American Taxa- 
tion, 10 n. 2, 34 n. 3, c.; on Gren- 
ville and his policy, 14 f . ; on state of 
England in 1772, i774> an <3 1775, 

32, 52 ; on policy in America, 37, 45, 
52 ; on repeal of the Stamp Act, 46 ; 
Letters, ed. Laski, 52 n. 3, &c.; plea 
for 'former unsuspecting confi- 
dence', xvii, 54; despair of, in 1774, 
48; on Quebec Act, 125, 128, 131, 
132 f., 134, 146; and Wedderburn 
on tithe, 146; and Howe, 166; on 
'metaphysical distinctions', 340; 
Morley on, 348; his incomparable 
insight, 348; other references, 1,2, 

33, 93, 199, 3H, &c. 

Burnet, Gov. of Mass, supplanted, 25. 

Burrow, Inspector-General of Cus- 
toms, sent home by Gov. Legge to 
defend his interests, 78 f. ; report of, 
to Legge, 85. 

Burt, A. L., 118 n. 3, 104 n. 2. 

Burton, General, feud with Murray, 
26 ; at Montreal, 102; at Quebec, 103. 



Bute, Earl of, patron of Governor 

Murray, 26, 102. 
Butler, agent of Mauger, on the 

Assembly, 77. 

C.O. 217, 163 n. 2, et passim in Chap- 
ter IV. 

'Cacodaemon', see Wakefield. 

Campbell, D., Hist, of 'N. S., i78n. i. 

Campbell, Lord William, Gov. of 
N. S., on temper of Assembly in 

1770, 74~5- 

Campbell, Sir Colin, bars Howe from 
council, vii, 186; proposals for civil 
list, 174 f. ; on the Address of 1837, 
174; directed to publish dispatches, 
174; on the Huntington- Young 
mission, 178; appoints delegates 
from council, 179; on Howe's Let- 
ters to Lord John Russell, 186; on 
Russell's dispatch of Oct. 16, 1839, 
187 ff.; reply to Howe's resolutions 
of want of confidence, 189 f.; Ad- 
dress to, 190; Address for recall of, 
I9of. ; recall of, 192 & n. 5, 197; 
parting of, with Howe, 193, 195; 
other references, viii, 151, 228, 246. 

Campbell v. Hall, Lord Mansfield in, 


Canada, parties in, v, vii; Sydenham 
and, vif. ; historical sources for, 
viii f. ; history of, x, xiii, xv f., xix f. ; 
major political problems of, xiii f. ; 
Confederation in, xiv; historical 
prepossessions of, xv f . ; Respon- 
sible Government in, xix and Chap- 
ter V, passim; see Quebec; Upper 
and Lower, evolution of, 19 n. 3; 
friction in, 51 ; a constitutional pro- 
digy, 149 f. ; succession of statutory 
governments in, 149 f.; effect of, 
upon N. S., 150 ff., 175 f., 201 f., 
&c.; contest in, and in N. S. com- 
pared, 152; failure of coalition in, 
202 ; and 'the great election' of 1-847 
in N. S., 233; see Chapter V, 240- 
326, passim; ' experimentum crucis 
of all Governors', 240; climax of 
responsible government in, 240; 
nature of contest in, 242 ; Sydenham 
on, 244, 249 f. ; Sydenham's admini- 
strative reforms in, 251 ff., 262 f. ; 
his travels in, 252, 254; his methods 
in, 254 f.; see Election; Hincks-La 
Fontaine-Baldwin alliance, a land- 
mark in, 257 ff.; 'ministerial crisis' 
of 1841 in, 256, 260 f.; see Bagot's 
'Great Measure', 264-80, passim; 
Stanley's policy for, 266 f.; two 
alternatives in, 269 ff . ; Harrison's 
advocacy of responsible govern- 
ment for, 270 & n. 3 ; Bagot's policy 

34" 1 

for, 270 ff.; first Reform ministry 
for, 273 ff . ; success of Bagot's 
'Great Measure' for, 274 f. ; Stanley 
on 'destinies of, 276; 'party spirit' 
in, 277, 283 ; Bagot's faith for, 279 f . ; 
the Metcalfe crisis in, 280-302, 
passim; Murdock on Stanley and, 
282 n. 2; Elgin on Sydenham's 
policy for, 247 ; Wakefield on, 282 f.; 
crudities of politics in, 283 f. ; 'rot- 
ten at the core' (Metcalfe), 289; 
Stanley's private instructions to 
Metcalfe for, 290 ; Metcalfe crisis in, 
289 ff. ; resignation of ministry, 292 ; 
Ryerson on, 298; elections of 1844 
in, 291, 294 ff., 297 ff.; disintegra- 
tion of Metcalfe's party in, 300 ff.; 
peril of, in 1848, 304, 3ioff.; El- 
gin's first year the key to, 305 ; Elgin 
tradition in, 307; effect of Reform 
Victory in N. S. upon, 233, 309; 
elections of Dec. 1847 in, 309; re- 
sponsible government inaugurated 
in, 309; economic conditions in, 
1848, 3ioff. ; saved by responsible 
government, 312 ff. ; loss of, pre- 
saged by Stanley, 315; 'loyalty' and 
the connexion in, 3 17 f . ; see Annexa- 
tion ; effect of Montreal upon, 319 & 
n. 4; Elgin on defence of, 321 n. I ; 
'its own worst enemy', 322 ; nation- 
alism and radicalism in, 322; new 
orientation of issues in, 322 f. ; Elgin 
on, 323 ; Grey's opinion of, 'among 
the nations of the world', 324; pro- 
gress of, 324; under the Union, 
325; 'constitutions' of, 327 f.; and 
public lands, 331 ; and trade, 331 ff. ; 
and foreign ' policy and defence, 
333 f. ; and the form of the con- 
stitution, 334 f. ; limitations of legis- 
lative powers of, 339 f. ; responsible 
government won by discipline of 
parties in, v, 152, 341, &c.; national 
development of, see Nation and 
Commonwealth, 351-6, passim', on 
national destiny of, 351; see Con- 
federation; nationhood a belated 
process, 351 f. ; hard to develop and 
govern, 352; cumulative effect of 
nationhood, Commonwealth, and 
League of Nations in, 353 f.; ten- 
dencies towards separation and in- 
tegration in, 354 ff.; isolation or 
insulation for, 354 f. ; historic tra- 
ditions towards goodwill, 354 f. ; 
and world peace, 355. 

Canada and Its Provinces, 66 n. 2, 
90 n. i & 4, &c. 

Canadian Historical Reviezv, ix, 157 n. 
2, &c. 

Canso, 58, 59, 60. 



Cape Breton, denied an Assembly, 91. 

Capitulation, of Quebec and Mon- 
treal, terms at, 95. 

Carleton, Col. Thomas, Gov. of N. B., 
on temper of N. S. and N. B., 90. 

Carleton, Sir Guy, first Lord Dor- 
chester, succeeds Murray and sides 
with rival faction in Quebec, 26; 
his attitude towards Murray, 26, 
H2n.i,ii7f.; character and corre- 
spondence of, no; views and influ- 
ence on the Quebec Act, 11019; 
on the American situation, 1 1 1 ; 
his defence of Quebec, in, 142, 
146; Address of British merchants 
to, 146; on military situation, in 
14, passim y Lieut. -Gov. and Gov. 
of Quebec, in & n. I, 113; his 
letter to Shelburne on 'Civil Consti- 
tution* of Quebec, 112; to Hills- 
borough on vital importance of 
Canada, 113 f. ; to Germain on the 
consistency of his military policy, 
114; conflict with Board of Trade 
and return to England, 114, 121, ! 
123 ; bearing of military views of, on i 
the problem of law, 1141!.; on the 
problem of an Assembly, 116 f. ; on 
the functions of council, 117 f.; on 
French feudal system for Quebec, i 

118 f. ; overrides legal advisers, 115; 
preference for French law both civil ! 
and criminal, 115; Memorandum 
of, n6n. i; on an Assembly for 
Quebec, n6f. ; instructions to, j 

1 19 f . ; draft ordinance of, for feudal } 
tenures, 115, 120; import of policy | 
of, for Quebec, 121 f. ; his return to 
England, and its purpose, 121 ff. ; 
relations of, with Knox and Hills- 
borough, 123 & n. 4; policy of, em- ! 
bodied in Quebec Act, 123; Report \ 
of 1769 sent secretly to, 122; on ; 
boundaries and tenures under Quebec , 
Act, 126 ; motion for report of, voted i 
down, 115, 127; evidence of, on the 
Quebec Act, 128; fear of, at Conti- i 
nental Congress, 137; his plan 'long 
since Recommended', 138 & n. 2, ; 
140, 141 ; his reliance on the sei- 
gneurs, 1 38-40, passim; on the habi- 
tants, 139 f. ; Dartmouth's plans for, 
141; resolution of, 141 f. ; recall of, 
85, 142; relations of, with Germain, 
26, 142 f.; to strengthen second i 
Empire, 148; on hereditary aris- j 
tocracy for Canada, 148. j 

Carnarvon, Lord, instructions from, | 

337- I 

Carolinas, see S. and N. Carolina. | 

Caron, R. E., 221, 232, 300; Elgin's | 

overtures to, 306. I 

Cartwright, J. S., Bagot's overtures to, 

Cartwright, Sir Richard, on annexa- 
tion and reciprocity, 321. 

Castine, British post at, 87. 

Catherine the Great, resort to, 52, 141. 

Cavendish, Sir Henry, notes of De- 
bates on Quebec Act by, 124 and 
122-34, passim. 

Chandler, E. B., visit of, to Colonial 
Office, 158. 

Chapman, Henry S., and L. C. rela- 
tions with Roebuck, 172; Howe's 
letter to, 175, 201. 

'Chartered' colonies, see Colonial 

Chatham, Earl of, xvii, 32; on illicit 
practices in trade, 7 ; Speech . . . in 
the House of Lords (1775), & n - *> 
34 n. 4; his distinction between 
general legislation and taxation, 33 ; 
against 'dragooning the Bostonians', 
34; his policy during the Seven 
Years' War, 42 f. ; traditions of his 
regime, 43 ; his appeal for 'mutual 
confidence', 43, 54, 66, 93; on the 
Quebec Act, 130, 133 f., 135 f. 

Chatham Correspondence, 133 f. & n. i, 

Cherrier, C. S., joins Ilincks and La 
Fontaine, 258, 260; on patronage in 
Canada, 284. 

Church of England, result of privi- 
leges to, 149; in N. S., 154; in 
council and population of N. S., 
156, 170, 174; monopoly of higher 
education, 167. 

Civil establishment, cost of, 36. 

Civil list, fixed, in Virginia, Georgia, 
and Nova Scotia, 26; effect upon 
provinces without, 36; in North 
Carolina, 37 ; struggle over, 45 ; 
action of Campbell and councils on, 
174; settled for N. S. by first re- 
sponsible government, 175; issue 
withdrawn by Sydenham in N. S., 
195; Falkland arid Stanley on, 208. 

Clarendon, fourth Earl of, in Bagot 
Papers, 2.66. 

Clear Grits, 325. 

Clergy Reserves, result of, 149, 154; 
'settlement* of, 251 ; Elgin on Syd- 
enham's policy with, 251 & n. 2. 

Clinton, Governor of N. Y., 38, 
39 n. i. 

Coalition, in N. S., see Chapter IV, 
pp. 194-212; in Canada, 198, 202, 
&c.; dissensions in N. S., 205 rT.; 
Stewart's disruptive influence in, 
205 ; opposed to 'party' on college 
question, 207 ; effect of Tory regime 
in G. B. upon, 207 ff.; doomed by 



Huntington's refusal of office, 208 ; 
Stewart's proposal to 'throw Howe 
overboard', 209; Howe, Uniacke, 
and McNab on failure of, 210; 
Howe, Uniacke, and McNab resign 
from, 212; Falkland's offer of, Feb. 
1844, 216; Falkland's final over- 
tures for, July 1844, 217 ff.', Buller 
on 'Military statesmen' and, 227 f.; 
'absolutely necessary* (Kent), 228; 
Howe on the futility of, 228 f. ; 
Howe, Doyle, McNab, and Young 
against, 229; Harvey's preference 
and overtures for, 229, 231 ff.; de- 
clined by Howe, 229, 232, &c.; 
in N. S. checkmated by Grey's 
dispatches of Nov. 3, 1846, and 
March 31, 1847, 233; appointments 
under, 236; Russell on, 242 f., 245 f. ; 
Sydenham's views on, for Canadian 
council, 243, 246 f. & n. i, 250; 
Baldwin joins, 258 ; his lack of con- 
fidence in, 258 f.; Hincks forecasts 
party Cabinet for, 260; Sydenham 
dominates, 260 f.; with French, 
urged by Draper and Harrison, and 
by old council, 268, 273; Bagot's 
overtures for, 273 f.; under Bagot 
not a party Cabinet, 277 ; Hincks on, 
277 ; Elgin's overtures for, 23 1 , 306 ; 
and 'double majorities' after the 
Union, 325, 327; Baldwin on, 
325 n. 2. 

Coffin, Quebec and the Early American 
Revolution, 137 n. i, 138 n. 4, &c. 

Colborne, Lord Seaton, 343 ; on French 
to be 'recovered', 268. 

Colden, Gov. of N. Y., on mercantile 
system, 1 1 . 

Colonial government, under the old 
colonial system, 15-48; general out- 
line, 15-23; lack of system, 16; 
origins, 16; 'proprietary* colonies, 
1617; 'chartered' colonies, 17-18; 
'royal' colonies, 18-21; develop- 
ment of 'royal' type, 21 -3 ; governor 
in the 'royal' colonies, 23-8; his 
commission and instructions, 234; 
his tenure of office and functions 
compared to those of the Crown in 
Great Britain, 25-7; the councils, 
28-30; relations with the governor, 
28; with the Assembly, 29-30; the 
colonial Assembly, 30-5 ; compared 
with the House of Commons, 30-1 ; 
at the close of the Seven Years' 
War, 31 ff.; tendencies in, 35-48; 
growth of powers of the Assembly, 
35-7; not 'subversive', 379; at- 
tempts at indirect control, 38-9; 
Franklin's project at the Albany 
Congress, 1754, 39-40; Shirley's 

project, 40-1 ; the project of the 
Board of Trade, 41-2; results of 
Seven Years' War, 42-4; projects 
for making executive 'Independent 
of the Assemblies', 45-8; see also 
Governor, Council, Assembly, Party, 
Coalition, &c. 

Colonial Laws Validity Act, 330, 340. 

Colonial Policy, see Grey, third Earl. 

Commission, to colonial governors, 
stereotyped, 18; from the Crown, 
19, 23 f., 27, &c.; of Berkeley 'per 
ipsum regem', 24; difference be- 
tween Instructions and, 24, 29, &c., 
significance of, 24; to Murray in 
Quebec, drafted by Board of Trade, 
96 n. i ; to Murray and Carleton, 
96 ; of Murray, forecasting Assembly 
for Quebec, 98 f. 

Commissioners of customs, resident in 
Great Britain until 1767, 7; instruc- 
tions from, after 1826, 160. 

Common Sense, Thomas Paine, effect 
of, 54 & n. i. 

Commonwealth, three cycles in de- 
velopment of, v, xiii ; work of states- 
men rather than jurists, vii; culmi- 
nation of responsible government, 
xiii ff. ; lessons from, xvif. ; and its 
Corollaries, xix f. and Chapter VI, 
passinr, evolved by all the Domin- 
ions, xx ; a unique development, xx; 
unity of, xxf. ; the mode of, fore- 
shadowed by Howe, 225 f . ; implicit 
in Grey's dispatch of Nov. 3, 1846, 
230; watershed between second 
Empire and, 242 ; evolution of, 303 ; 
Elgin's place in, 303 ; anomalies of, 
339-44, passim', result of empirical 
adjustments, 341 ; casting vote in, 
342; see Basis of Unity, 344-51, 
passim] based on sense of common 
weal, 344; its catholicity, 344 f.; 
and League of Nations, 345; con- 
structive principle of, 348; see 
Nation and, 3516, passi?n; Amery 
on nations of, 353; British Empire 
associated only as, 353; genius of, 
353 ; effect of nationhood and League 
of Nations upon, 353; mechanical 
incoherence of, 353; common apti- 
tudes of League and, 353; tenden- 
cies towards separatism and integra- 
tion in, 354 fT. ; mechanical integra- 
tion of, 355; privileged stance of 
Dominions in, 356. 

Commonwealth Act, British legislative 
supremacy in, 339. 

Confederation, in Canada, U.S.A., 
Australia, and Brazil, xiv; sources 
of, xiv; and race, xv; see B.N.A. 
Act of 1867, Head, &c.; extorted 


from 'grinding necessities', 351; 
problems of, 351 f. ; and nation- 
hood, 352. 

Connecticut, Puritan traditions of, 16; 
writ of Quo Warranto against, 17; 
government of, 18; cost of civil 
establishment in, 36; contributions 
to the Seven Years' War, 43 ; 'vir- 
tually complete powers of self- 
government' in, 50; settlers from, 
in N. S., 66. 

Considerations on . . . Taxes in the 
British Colonies, 34 n. 2, &c. See 

Constitutional Act, xv, xviii, 144, 147, 
149, 327; Knox on, 49; a statutory 
constitution, 327. 

'Continental' colonies, 10, 94. 

Continental Congress, on mercantile 
system, 12, 304 n. i ; Washington at, 
47 ; overtures of, to N. S., 84; Revo- 
lution attributed to, 92, 148; on the 
Quebec Act, 135-8, passim; Journals 
of, 135 S, passim; Addresses, Mem- 
orial, petition, &c., of, on the Quebec 
Act, 135 ; propaganda of, in Quebec, 
145; other references to, 35, 130. 

Controversy . . . Reviewed, see Knox. 

Copyright Act, 340. 

Coram, Thomas, project for settle- 
ment of N. S., 59 f. 

Corn bury, Gov. of N. Y., corrupt 
regime of, 36. 

Cornwallis, Gov. of N. S., on person- 
nel of 1749, 63 ; his commission and 
instructions, 67. 

Cornwallis Valley, N. S., settlement 
of, 66. 

Correspondence between Joseph Howe 
and Charles Butler, 2,26 n. 3 & 4, 
228-39, passim. 

Council, see Colonial government and 
pp. 23-30, passim; of N. S., 1720, 
57; not competent to make laws 
without an